A Facebook post graciously shared by my wife inspires this post. But first, a preface…
The quote above is widely attributed to late physicist Albert Einstein. However, he never actually said or wrote this quote, though he did express in his many writings his fear that our technology could be misused in ways detrimental to the survival of humanity (Emery, 2017).
Einstein’s fears focused almost specifically on the use of nuclear weapons. His words did not speak at all about how technology would create a generation of idiots.
I wrote about how the media, particularly the Internet, will often falsely attribute pithy and poignantly prophetic quotes to deceased famous and/or historical figures to put a veneer of validity and authenticity on the quotes that then proceed to go viral and are believed authentic for years to come.
The irony of all of this is that the falsely attributed quote that opens this post conveys a message that is quite valid in and of itself. Technology has indeed created a generation of idiots who lazily accept a falsely attributed quote without question because it appears plausible and valid.
Why not just present the quote without attributing it to anyone? The quote makes a salient point. Why not let it stand on its own merits?
The answer to these questions is simple enough. Making a salient point isn’t enough on its own in a society that values fame, wealth, and celebrity more than it values intelligence, sincere individuality, and wisdom.
The false attribution of the above quote aside, it does speak a fundamental truth about our modern society. Our technology has created a kind of social stratification where 5% of the people are intellectually curious and ambitious and go on to dominate the 95% who are not.
The 5% use technology to their advantage. The 95% allow themselves to be exploited through technology while falsely believing they are enlightened and informed through technology.
Need convincing that this rather draconian point of view has validity?
Look no further than our social media and how easily offended, easily led, and easily suggestible most people are on social media.
I often use photos, quotes, and memes to open my blog posts, I then share my blog posts to my Facebook pages (personal and public Rational Ram pages) which I also post to my “story” on Facebook (a 24-hour temporary post that highlights what you post to it prominently on your timeline). I cannot tell you how many times people either just view my story or view and react to my story without clicking on the link to actually read the blog post.
This often leads to people lazily reacting to the photo rather than reacting to the blog post which may convey a vastly different perspective or message than the photo or meme itself conveys.
Oddly enough, 5% of the people who click on my Facebook story actually read and comment on the blog post and 95% either just click to view my story or react with the wrong emoji because they only viewed the photo, read the quote or meme and didn’t read the blog post.
For those wondering why most people in American society lack the efficacy to improve their own lives and feel they need to rely on the magnanimity of others while constantly seeking external validation, wonder no more.
Our technology created a generation of conformists who think they are individualists. Our technology created a generation of socially awkward people who’d rather order their food and do their shopping through an Internet app rather than go out and interact with people face-to-face.
The “stay at home” orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic are so vehemently embraced by many people because technology made it easier to separate us from our humanity. For those still confused about why identity politics, political ideology, and celebrity worship are so dominant in our society, look no further than the way most people let technology shape their thoughts and behaviors vs thinking for themselves and using technology to their own advantage.
The world is indeed getting weaker, but not necessarily wiser. It is not our technology driving the process. It is our collective laziness.
I close this post with the Facebook post that inspired it:
I had spent an hour in the bank with my dad, as he had to transfer some money. I couldn’t resist myself & asked…
”Dad, why don’t we activate your internet banking?”
”Why would I do that?” He asked…
”Well, then you wont have to spend an hour here for things like [money] transfer(s).
You can even do your shopping online. Everything will be so easy!”
I was so excited about initiating him into the world of Net banking.
He asked ”If I do that, I wont have to step out of the house?
”Yes, yes”! I said. I told him how even groceries can be delivered to your door now and how Amazon delivers everything!
His answer left me tongue-tied.
He said, “since I entered this bank today, I met four of my friends, I have chatted with the staff who know me very well by now.
You know I am alone…this is the company that I need. I like to get ready and come to the bank. I have enough time, it is the physical touch that I crave.
Two years back I got sick, The store owner from whom I buy fruits, came to see me and sat by my bedside and cried.
When your Mom fell down few days back while on her morning walk. Our local grocer saw her and immediately got his car to rush her home as he knows where I live.
Would I have that ‘human’ touch if everything became online?
Why would I want everything delivered to me and force me to interact with just my computer?
I like to know the person that I’m dealing with and not just the ‘seller’. It creates bonds and relationships.
Does Amazon deliver all this as well?”’
Technology isn’t life..
Spend time with people .. Not with devices.
-The Rational Ram