Unless we are living with our heads in the sand, all of us know that our world is changing. The culture of this nation has rapidly changed as it has been exposed to the “advances” of modern times. The electronic age has pounded down the gates of traditional thought and threatens to replace the very way that we process information. As conservative people, we have had the privilege of good faithful church leaders who have warned us of the dangers of electronic media. However, in this article I want to quote purely secular sources to demonstrate that this is not just a “conservative Christian issue.”
Technology in our day and age tends to take over some of our mental faculties if we allow it. Technology gives us quick access to facts, but it does not necessarily increase knowledge. Technology allows us to organize, sort, store, and back up information, but it does not necessarily give us more understanding. Technology can certainly give one the appearance of knowledge, but having knowledge within my person is much different than knowing how and where to access knowledge on my computer. Technology gives us the luxury of mental laziness, because we no longer need to contain the knowledge within ourselves, we just need to remember where to access it. This is simply outsourcing our brains. In business terms outsourcing is the process of contracting a business function to someone else. In many ways technology allows us to simply outsource our brains. Deep thinking, reflection, and meditation are seen by many as no longer necessary; because should our brain have a deficit of knowledge (call it “brain fog”), we can quickly make it up with technology by searching the cloud, which is essentially the back up for the modern brain. Nicholas Carr says, “The internet’s cacophony of stimuli short-circuits, both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from thinking either deeply or creatively. Our brains turn into simple signal-processing units, quickly shepherding information into our consciousness and then back out again.” Technology, and especially the internet “seize our attention, only to scatter it” (Carr). “The net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions” (Carr).
It is interesting to me that as internet use increases in our world, literacy decreases. The internet has put the world’s wisdom at our fingertips in many different forms, but at the same time our culture is losing it’s ability to read and process information. “As fewer of us are reading books, more of us are surfing the Web for fragments of thought” (10, EL). As fewer people are literate, we have fewer people who have the simple building blocks of learning, whereby they can gather information. Without the ability to gather information, there is little to no hope that we will be able to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate it.
“Every day we are exposed to huge amounts of information, disinformation, and just plain nonsense. The ability to distinguish fact from factoid, reality from fiction, and truth from lies is not a nice to have but a must have in a world flooded with so much propaganda and spin” (10, EL). In other words, as our culture is inundated with fiction and nonsense, it has at the same time given up basic literacy, which has been the proven building block for being able to correctly process and evaluate information. Deception is rampant, and the culture is ripe to accept it. The choice is ours: we can follow the culture into the electronic age and destroy our children’s ability to think, or we can keep doing what we know has been proven – teach basic literacy and encourage reading over all the other electronic smut that is out there. The culture has a definite course that is it is taking– it has prescribed the “cloud brain” to overcome “brain fog”. Is this an acceptable use of the brain which God has given and designed to grow not only in knowledge, but also understanding and wisdom?