In this country and in this era, it is taken for granted that one will go to college for an education. Five-hundred years ago, this was not the case. In fact, not only was a college education uncommon, the style of the education was vastly different. In his article From Gutenberg to the Internet Jeremy Norman discusses how at least one school of Oxford contained benches only, and not desks. Written works were scarce and could usually be no more than borrowed. Students were expected to memorize and regurgitate with little to no aid of such works. Such a practice is nearly unimaginable by today’s standards. However, with the invention of the printing press, that changed (albeit very slowly). Now, we find ourselves in an era of abundant books, electronic devices, and the internet. However, is it possible that such a technological advancement is becoming a hindrance to society? Nearly anyone can go to college and almost any information can be found in a few keystrokes. Knowledge seems to be stored less in one’s brain and more in a keyboard. One could even argue that knowledge is actually little known.
Now some would counter-argue that memorization, as was done hundreds of years ago, is not indicative of intelligence. I might even be inclined to agree. However, I also think that having little knowledge stored in our heads and only on electronic devices makes for a dangerous turn. First, if information is so easily accessible, what is the value in knowing it? Hundreds of years ago, to have the opportunity to attend college, and to have a printed work, was unique. Now it is taken for granted. The law of supply and demand even comes into play. The greater the supply, the less the demand. A decrease in demand leads to a drop in prices. While knowledge is usually not measured in such a quantitative way as price, the point is still clear: Value decreases. Making information more accessible decreases its value and decreases the value in knowing it.
The second problem is related to cognitive ability. All accessible information fuels a society of instant gratification. People expect to find information instantly and become frustrated when they cannot. Proper research and its methods begin to fall by the wayside because they require more effort than a quick Google search. The figurative brain muscles are getting less exercise and this makes itself manifest in other ways, such as communication abilities. The members of society, particularly the younger ones, keep their noses in their devices, avoiding direct communication. Texts and e-mails are preferred rather than face-to-face communication. E-mails and texts are ignored with nary a thought to what may be riding on them. Society becomes automated with less thought becoming involved. The concept is actually quite scary.
In conclusion, technological advances have shaped our society in ways that were previously unimaginable. And a lot of those advances can still be considered good. However, as a society, we might do well to step back, take a breath, and see where we are going. The effect of technology can be pernicious. We should take care to make sure that we control it rather than having it control us.