20 February 2008

Bring on the "Idiots"

The TUR has been so strong this week! Great posts and solid discussion. This conversation about the intelligence level of the USA has really got me thinking. I was doing some reading on the so-called “Information Age” that we are just starting to enter and, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I feel like these “America is dumb” intellectualists really are curmudgeonly and backward. They are applying Industrial Age standards to Information Age citizenry.

Before you all come after me, let me explain. It is widely estimated and generally agreed upon that we will see machines capable of replicating the computing power of the human brain in twenty years or so. It is also widely suggested that we will have machines capable of replicating the computing power of the entire human race in an additional twenty years, although technological predictions more than fifteen to twenty years out are exceedingly difficult. Whatever happens, in another 50 years, awesome computing power and worldwide access to information at unimaginable levels will be readily available.

What will this mean to the average Information Age human? What we term as “intelligence” today, i.e. picking out Iraq on a map, or knowing the capital of Hungary is Budapest, will be irrelevant. Access to that information will be so fast and so readily available, you will not need to “know” it. Knowledge will no longer be information based. You will need to know how to properly access and apply information, not necessarily what that information is. And, who in today’s society is most capable of accessing and quickly applying multiple streams of disparate input? Why, it’s the Xbox player and internet user.

Let’s not bring up reality TV. I think we can all admit it is a low-brow, mind-numbing form of entertainment and will most likely be gone in ten years. It is currently either enjoying its peak or past its prime. Either way, cultural mistakes happen. See early 1990’s men’s hairstyles, mid to late 1970’s automobile design, and the prevalent usage of the idiom, “son” as an exemplifier, as in, “I totally banged her, SON!”

Now I’m not saying I am totally convinced by this logic and please feel free to poke holes in it, but I think it shows a distinct lack of… let’s call it “touch”, to try and gauge current intelligence levels based on standards from the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s. The world has changed, access to information has changed, and our brains must change as well. The hardwiring of our minds should not be concerned with wrote memorization, which is really all that knowing that the Earth revolves around the Sun is (I challenge any of these authors to supply the necessary physics), but should rather be focused on the speedy application of multiple electronic stimuli. So, let those kids play that Xbox and aimlessly surf the internet. They are building the skills of tomorrow!


Pepper said...

Pete, I'll agree with you that the way we esteem knowledge, store and access it will probably be vastly different in the future.

Interestingly, the portrait you paint is not totally unlike the Marty McFly, Jr. of Back to the Future II, although I pray the form he takes will have made advantageous use of technology--not the opposite.

So let's so you will be able to pull up the capitol of Hungary/GDP of New Tightletonia [the country that TUR will own]/the number of modulations in a Mozart operetta--so what? Does that mean people won't use their memory for everyday things? Will they apply those parts of their brains to other shit? What about cultural production? Will the capabilities of technology alter our appreciation for raw intelligence?

Hmm. I just got into the bullshit zone. Better quit while I'm ahead.

I'll tell you one thing: I can guarangoddamtee you that Krasdale will be out of busines.

Ralph Bodenner said...

Perhaps different mental skills will be valued by cultures as they change in response to technology, but not knowing your ass from a hole in the ground will always be grounds for derision and/or pity.

The Becca said...

I would think that what we need to know to survive would get so limited that people would die off in mass numbers. So, today, you can not know where Budapest is and you will live. But if machines does all of the thinking for you in the future, you could not know that sticking your fingers in an electrical socket would kill you. So more people would do more stupid shit resulting in their death.

The Becca said...

*machines DO. Dammit sorry everyone. I'm apparently turning into Pete.

Pete said...

You're not thinking big enough people... The computer in your head will instantly warn you of impending danger (sticking your finger in a socket). We will be so intergrated with our machines, factual information stored in our brains will be superfluous becuase in the time it takes to recall it from your cerebral cortex the computer has already supplied the necessary info, several related topics, and where to find the cheapest spacerocketplane fare to go there and see for yourself. Not that people won't still aquire and store such informatiion, but they will be made fun of like the Amish.

The Becca said...

I, for one, welcome these mechanical overlords!

mandy said...

2 reactions:

1) The kind of skill(s) sets you're hinting at are already used daily and have been for a long time. For example, it does a person little good to memorize a road map of an unknown city before visiting, but it is much more useful for that person to have a general understanding of how to navigate a map. Or, it is not quite as useful for, say, an insurance professional to memorize every form on an insurance policy as it is to know what resources to employ to either find an applicable form, be able to read and explain it to a customer, etc. Even doctors, who have to have a fairly broad base of medical knowledge, use printed guides and Palm Pilot apps to help diagnose their patients.

So to say that these kinds of capabilities are new is misleading. People have been using reference guides since the beginning of time. This kind of "technology" isn't new, it's just being translated over a new medium.

2) While I recognize *amazing* technological breakthroughs, by God, I feel like I'm getting dumber. I'm reminded daily that my ability to spell has all but gone to shit. Why? Spell-check/Google/that rad Dashboard Dictionary Widget. I'm also studying for the GRE and it's as though I never learned math before. Why? Because I have handy technological devices available to do the work for me: computers. I don't like feeling dumb. But thankfully I have a decent base of common sense to know how to utilize those technological toys.

The point: So while I like the idea of carrying around a little device that can basically figure anything out for me, it's pretty much useless if I'm a moron. There's no reason to quit the learning: it only makes us better at using the resources available to us.

PS: But I don't want a computer in my head, Pete!

Matthew said...

Archaeologists just found a woman in the Amazon who had not yet seen a lightbulb. I hope that the misInformation Age won't reach everyone.

The Becca said...

I have no idea how to do long division.

bexfruit said...

i have never truly explored the comments section of TUR because i'm generally so overwhelmed with the wittiness and cultural relevance of the posts that i never make it that far.

But this time I decided to dig deeper and while we're discussing the future of america's dumbass youth, i have to say i'm not in the least worried because clever chaps like all of you exist. And you seem pretty dang sharp to me. And since I can call y'all my buddies, I feel like I'm brilliant by association.

So here's the rub: Don't hang out with stupid people and you will never need a computer in your head because your smart friends will be able to tell you where Hungary is on a map.


P.S. It has proven more difficult to find intelligent life forms to socialize with in L.A., so my brain may be deteriorating into a celeb blog as we speak. But at least it's sunny.