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No Shit, Sherlock: Darwin, Tech and Cylons

In 21st Century Culture, FOR YOUR CONSIDERSTION, NEW!, NEWS AND COMMENTARY, Uncategorized on February 3, 2011 at 6:24 AM

COMPUTERS AND TECHNOLOGY: Think It Won’t Change Your Brain? Think Again.

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“We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren’t necessarily evolved to do,” he said. “We know already there are consequences.” –Adam Gazzly, Neuroscientist, University of California, San Francisco

From June 2010, Article by Matt Richter for The New York Times

And at first they were concerned about the lack of Classical Education.

More precisely, failure to adhere to the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric.

Skipping the Grammar and Logic foundations, curriculums began jumping into the last stage, Rhetoric. “This is why so many elementary texts insist on asking six-year-olds how they feel about what they’re learning, long before they’ve properly had a chance to learn it,” Susan Wise Bauer writes in her book, The Well Educated Mind. Explaining how the Trivium secures a student with a firm foundation of understanding, she makes a compelling argument apropos of how and why education has adhered to this structure since the Renaissance. The building blocks necessary for the mechanics to process information and apply knowledge are critical, she explains, and leaping to the last stage has affected our culture. “This mental short-cut has become a habit for adults, who are ready to give their opinions long before they’ve had a chance to understand the topic under study. (Listen to any call-in radio show.)ª”

Thus, many adults growing up in the late 20th Century think Logic is something said by Vulcans and Grammar is the difference between a verb and an adjective.

Dorothy L. Sayers, a British mystery writer, gave a speech at Oxford in 1947 proposing a return to the classical education and provocatively questioned how the loss of the classical “tools of learning,” manifests [ Full Text may be found here ] :

Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy is higher than it has ever been, people have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? …Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side?  …And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a sinking of the heart? …Is not the great defect of our education today–a defect traceable through all the disquieting symptoms of trouble I have mentioned–that although we often succeed in teach pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them HOW to think: they learn everything except the art of learning.

Within half a century of this speech, prolific Classical Scholars like Victor Davis Hanson refudiated the entire world of Academia by declining to accept tenure, substantiating his reasons most notably in the 2001 book written with fellow classicist John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise Of Classical Education And The Recovery Of Greek Wisdom. Modern education systems had squeezed out the Classics to the extent where few Universities and Colleges offered undergraduate programs in the Classics. The world of Philology had grown into an elitist collective, reputing any new scholarship instead of properly refuting the compelling arguments made by the scarce, rising Classicists.

Meanwhile, Cable News spawned FNC, MSNBC, CNBC (et al,) and something called “THE INTERNET,” was evolving rapidly. By the time the Millennium came and the Y2K Scare was over, public phone booths had turned into urinals and 1-800 Numbers became www.ifyouaredepressedthengetfreepillsthatwillmakeyouhappy.com

Fill in the blanks between 1989 and 2010 with whatever historical event you believe is relevant, we’re still here today and we’re still facing The Law of Unintended Consequences.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, then I suggest you google it. (Please, if you use Wikipedia as a primary reference, find at least two secondary sources to substantiate what you learn there. If you do not see the point in doing this, stop reading now and reply to that SMS Message with, “IDK FML!”)

To summarize, the introduction of moveable type in the west represented by the Gutenberg Bible triggered a ripple effect across several centuries. Including (among other things) the Scientific Revolution, The Christian Reformation and an Agrarian Revolution which immediately resulted in the Industrial Revolution: The Law Of Unintended Consequences reveals how technology changes the human environment.

Students of Military History will note how the relationship between technology and tactics in the theater of war remain out of sync. Advanced weaponry rarely meets with an adaptation in military tactics and strategy, thus resulting in enormous casualties.

And at first they were worried about kids watching too much television instead of reading books.


Rewind 100 years from today. Look at the social environment. Look at the technological environment. Look at what happened over the next 100 years: Radio. WWI, the War to end all wars. Moving Pictures. The Great Depression. The Jazz Age. The Scopes Monkey Trial. Talking Pictures. WWII, the dawning of the Nuclear Age. Broadcast Television and Science Fiction. Rock and Roll, The Civil Rights Movement, Hippies, The Vietnam War, The Age of Aquarius, Disco. Cable Television. The Space Age, The Cold War, Computer Technology. The Discovery of DNA, Yuppies, Mobile Telecommunications. The World Wide Web. The Gulf War. The Dot Com Burst and Bust, Social Networking, The Discovery of Mirror Neurons….

One thing, however, has never changed: the human condition. Even The Law of Unintended Consequences fails to affect our overall experience as a species. However, today, we are spending more time in front of a screen than face to face. This affects our natural, neurological processes. It is so new to our environment, we do not know what effects are taking place.

And now they are worried about whether or not people suffer from addictions to the digital technology.

No Shit, Sherlock.

“Read Your Darwin!”

Image Found via Google Search, Not Made By Me

If you think that things are looking bad now, then wait another five, ten or twenty years. We’re in the Golden Age of Geeks. We have the ability to communicate and access information freely and instantaneously. We are on the doorstep of a Renaissance. All we have to do is open the door and walk through it. It is our choice. And it begins with you and me.

We ought to remember our history. Specifically, the argument towards cultural virtue holds little weight. The probability of our society making the choice to learn from our past in order to embrace the future? About as high as the odds of the least likely horse in the race, going on to win The Triple Crown.

Why? Because while we are worrying about whether or not to blame the Bush Administration or the Obama Administration, The Right or the Left, The Economy or Global Warming, no one seems to notice how a new species has been introduced into our habitat.

And it is VIRAL.

Imagine: Space Ships and Submarines were once the things of Science Fiction. But of course, how many folks can connect those dots? Somehow we managed to make history prior to 1945 irrelevant to who/where we are today. Or am I the only one noticing this?

Given the literacy rate of most students about to enter a Community College or University right now …STFU. They cannot tell a thesis from a hypothesis. SMH.

Am I the only one who wonders whether or not anyone will be around 100 years from now to laugh at how Cylons were a thing of fiction?

I miss Winston Churchill. History will be kind to him because he wrote it. History has been kind to Shakespeare, too. If we make it another 100 years or more, will people argue about whether or not Churchill was a real person?

“Cry Calumny! And let loose the dogs of natural social science.”

The reason I’m sentient is to witness this remarkable period in our history. I do NOT wish to witness the fall of our civilization. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, truth can be stranger than fiction. That is, if you even have the ability to differentiate between the two.

FML.

COPYRIGHT 2011 BY KIMBERLY COX, GidgetWidget™ All rights reserved.

Quick Note, 15:30 (EST)

Larry Sanger posted an excellent article here on February 1st,

“A Common Error of School Lessons or Why I Am Home Schooling”

  1. We might be entering a New Renaissance or Enlightenment 2.0. However, just like 15th Century Italy or 18th Century Scotland, the number of people able to take part in it will be small. Not everyone has the skills, knowledge and motivation to move or shake and it was ever thus.

    The difference between now and then is that in the past people were excluded and denied learning for reasons of class or race or gender or religion. Today they deny themselves for the most part. You can pick up copies of any nearly book ever published for pennies or borrow from a library for free. We have never been more literate as a society but literacy has seldom been less valued.

    (I will admit to a sneaking admiration for the medieval noblemen who thought that reading and writing were “monks work” and nothing that a healthy man need worry himself about.)

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  2. The death of the Classics is something that bothers me in retrospect. I didn’t know much about philosophy or methods of thought and analysis outside of the scientific before I hit my University years. Once I did, however, I was so fascinated by it I minored in the subject. Had I not been blinded by the potential monetary gain of technology, I may have more sound, concrete things to say on the subject. As it is you’ll get my standard armchair analysis.

    You mentioned Shakespeare in your post. Remember that Will was one among thousands, and the other 999 of the sample group probably had trouble remembering which hand they’d wiped themselves with right up until they stuck a finger up their nose. He changed literature, and some might argue the world, by being exceptional in the face of mediocrity. Trends probably rose and fell around him, but his work persisted. The difference between his time and ours is that our work gets published, read, shared and either exalted or obliterated almost immediately. We can discern the exceptional from the mediocre within days instead of years, and even those exceptional storytellers and artisans who get the same 15 minutes of fame as a pundit or panderer develop loyal followings all the same.

    It’s an exciting time, and I’m proud to be a part of it, hopefully as one of the exceptional instead of one of the mediocre.

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  3. As a student or history as well as one who partakes of it, I was disgusted when I heard certain school districts in the South will start their study of United States of America history from the year 1865. You may comment at will

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    • I asked a 6th Grader if he studied the Civil War in school. He thought for a moment and then said, “Yea, we studied that.” When I pressed further by asking about some of the battles, he spun his ball around and said, “I dunno,” then asked me if I had been in any horror films. I turned to his mother, a dear friend, and said, “You realize, this is a BAD SIGN.” She nodded adamantly.

      This is one instance in millions. Where do I stand on public education? I just stand there gaping with my dumb mouth wide open. I don’t pretend to know anything about the mind-boggling complexity of the system. I just know something is very wrong if the function serves not to educate, but to baby-sit.

      Despite it all, however, there is one thing I feel confident enough to offer. When it all boils down, it’s the many individuals out there who are teachers, and good teachers. They need all the support we can give them and all the respect in the world.

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