Stop. Can you feel it? A scratching inside your head? A faint itch as your grey matter strains against the oppressive forces of the Internet? Hrm? You can’t? Are you quite sure? Well, I wonder that that might imply?
Humans are inherently afraid of change. It’s one of our defining features. Some of the most violent and heinous actions in our history, coups, rebellion, reruns, all of these events are caused and influenced in some manner by change.
But change doesn’t have to be a force of harm. In fact, throughout our history, it is more often a force for good. All of the comforts and luxuries you enjoy today are due to change. Change is the very reason you’re able to live past thirty or not have to constantly worry about being hunted by some apex predator. Change, overall, is good.
Today, the change most people are worried about is the change associated with the Internet. Since its introduction into our lives, the Internet has drastically changed the way we work and think. Never before have we all had access to this much information at once. “Between the dawn of civilization and 2003, 5 exabytes of information was created. That much information is now created every two days” (Schooloflifechannel). Yet for some people, such changes in how we gather and share information is not exciting but rather, frightening.
Respected Swiss scientist and graduate of the University of Strasbourg, Doctor Conrad Gessner is amongst the frighteningly large number of people who worry that an unrestricted access to information will lead to an oversaturation of works, ultimately leaving the academic landscape “confusing and harmful” (Bell). Dr. Gessner warns about the dangers inherent in allowing technology to drown us in information, claiming that the surplus of information such technology provides is damaging both to our ability to remember and think critically, and our ability to trust a source to be reliable. Rather unfortunately for Dr. Gessner, his cries went mostly unheeded before his untimely death of plague in 1565, and the Printing Press remained as permanent stain on the academic field, ruining human knowledge and ultimately leading to the collapse of society.
As should be clearly evidenced by the fact that we are not currently living in huts atop the ashes of our heretical, printing press using predecessors, Gessner was clearly in the wrong. In fact, his views were not only incorrect, they vastly opposed the true nature of the printing press’s effect on society (Brunelle). Rather than damn us to some Dante-esque landscape, the printing press was a primary mover in bringing about one of the most scientifically and artistically fruitful periods in human history, the Renaissance.
In addition to vastly improving the 16th century, increased access to information has had other huge effects on humanity in modern times. The Flynn Effect states that on average, IQ increases fifteen points per generation, making millenials essentially Einsteins of 100 years ago (Chivers). This effect has been well documented and studied, and tends to correlate with access to information through forms such as the Internet.
For example, when a traditionally non-developed nation gains largescale access to resources such as the Internet, their yearly IQ increase spikes, showing massive increase before eventually levelling out the standard 15 points per generation you see in developed countries (Flynn).
This fact holds strong implications regarding the benefits of Internet access. Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic claims that the while the internet might limit our ability to remember as much, it vastly increases our critical thinking skills (Chamorro-Premuzic). Furthermore, while our memory may be somewhat limited, this fact negligable due to the mobile memory we’re able to carry everywhere with us, our smart phones.
Our current technological status allows us greater freedom of expression–for better or for worse–than ever before experienced in human history. Nowadays we’re just a click away from being temporary experts on a subject, whether it’s learning all there is to know about beekeeping, or just watching a short video about astrophysics (Sandlin). Now, this new freedom in the form of access to information is definitely something that must be further observed, but I’d postulate that like previous examples of information becoming suddenly much more available to humanity, its net effect will be positive. So with this, I assert to you, worry not about the changes progress brings, but rather, focus on the good it will do and how you will utilize this good.