Over the next series of months I will be blogging about technology and the less obvious dangers of this age of infinite, immediate and unrelenting information. Recently i have been reading articles and blogs that sing the benefits of having so much information/technology at our hands. As one blogger confided, whenever you want it whatever you want, it’s like being a crack addict in a crack den, but it’s crack that’s good for you. In one article about the wonder of the app store, the author, a father of three, talked about trying to build a campfire with his kids, and when the fire would not start, quickly finding an app that explained how to make the the flame catch (for which he was deemed wonder dad). On the same camping trip, he reported being impressed by his own ability to use technology to splice together pictures of himself as a boy doing the same activities that his own children were engaging in right in front of him (which he watched through his smart phone lens). In another blog about summertime, the author boasts how, on a rainy day, she quickly called up an app that delivered the top dozen creative games to play with kids when weather strikes. Yet another talked of being a hero to his daughter because he used his iphone to save the day when his daughter got stuck on her prized landyerd weaving. The list of miracles that the internet is credited with accomplishing is endless and includes more obvious ones as well, for example, being able to find out exactly what to do when you are in a new summer town, and luckily, to be able to complete all of it without having to do any of the exploring yourself.
While there is no question that it is helpful to know how to get beet juice out of a pair of pants before the stain takes hold, there is undoubtedly a huge downside to being able to access this glut of information at every moment. It does something to our brains and our consciousness as a whole when we can find out anything we need to know without having to think, imagine, remember or create. Before this boom in information technology, if we didn’t know how to do something that we wanted to do, we figured something out. We found a way to light the fire. It might not have been Google or Wikipedia’s way, but we made it work. The smores got eaten. Or, if we could not tackle the challenge, we came up with something else to do. Figuring it out or inventing a new plan–both are creative endeavors. Before we had all this information at our finger tips, we used our own minds. We thought, we imagined, we problem-solved, we invented. When we sat still and faced the fact that we didn’t know something, we were effectively giving our mind the chance to work and thereby, to stretch and grow. The experience of not knowing is a powerful and deeply beneficial exercise for the mind–perhaps the most important for both children and adults. Being without information forces us to germinate in a kind of fertile ground, the ground of potential. The ground from which we grow and evolve. The ground from which new ideas are born. Day after day, stuffing ourselves with answers, we turn our minds into flabby, sedated slobs–bloated, depressed and inert, like handcuffing an Olympic athlete to the refrigerator. Sadly, in so doing, we are literally depriving our mind of its ability and its right to exercise, to do what it is designed to do, what it loves to do. To think! While it may be fun to be able to find out anything that we want at any time, it is not good for us, and not good for the evolution of our brains or our spirits. It makes things easier, but easier is not always better.