Men and women sitting in their bathrooms around the world have emulated the deep thought and pose of Rodin’s “Thinker”. Those few moments in a day when we are forced to confront our thoughts, like when we’re on the commode, waiting in a queue or the scheduled day dream have been replaced with being forced to confront the numerous notifications on our mobile devices. Be it the ease of portability in mobile devices or the advent of infrastructure that supports a wireless network of devices, the option to be connected in the virtual world is always available. Some of us may actively seek it and for some it’s a work necessity.
Today the paradigm has shifted; where we seek wireless technology in order to remain wired. Is perpetual connectivity guiding us to a position where knowing becomes obsolete? Does this matter?
Technology allows us to have additional memory drives outside of our brain as well as the ability to seek and add more information that we may require. This creates a scenario where we only have to have the ability to find the knowledge as opposed to retain the knowledge. Tests for filling in jobs now seem to require the ability to find out information as opposed to walk in having the information. In other words, knowing where and how to get the information instead of actually knowing the information. This new form of knowing, so to speak, still has its own hurdles. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “You can’t trust everything on the web, YouTube is not just documentaries!”
This point has been discussed by Professor Sugata Mitra at TED Talks, where he believes that knowledge has become obsolete because of the ease with which knowledge can be accessed and retained by technology at human fingertips.
Machines have been invented in order to reduce human time and effort. Yet with mobile devices we seem to be spending more and more time and effort on them. Most of my days go in just juggling the battery lives of my devices and vaguely remembering the passwords to the multitude of accounts that I’ve had to set up. Maybe because we spend so much time and memory on these trivial things our output has to be redesigned to accommodate knowledge becoming obsolete.
Some of you may understand the pun on Game of Thrones with the title while some others may find the reference to ‘thrones’ and ‘commode’ funny. But in order to do so, one would have to know the references. However, now if the need to know is dependent on instant gratification the access to information is available, easily.
I check the spellings and grammar in every text message that I send. Is it because I care or because I know? Is it because I know that I care? Or because I care, I know? Who cares anyway?
The point is that at the time when it matters, I have the ability and tools to check that I am correct. As I mentioned, where the need to know meets instant gratification.
So whether or not knowing or knowledge has become obsolete in fact is a question I cannot answer due to my lack of knowledge in most matters. However, I am unable to reconcile with the fact that knowing has become obsolete because that is what sets us apart from other species on this planet. But I believe in something larger. What in fact have been created are the tools and outlets for the freedom of thought. We are free to think for free!
The Game of Thought stems from us coming from a culture of knowing or needing to know, which has been instrumental in the advancement of our species. With the entertainment industry driving us towards having ADD or watching videos of cats online (or something similar) are we taking our freedom for granted?
The freedom of thought is the greatest contribution that the Internet has provided us. In the past, the success of political regimes has been predicated on the fact that the freedom to think was obstructed. Today we take for granted our freedom to think because there are places still on this planet where either the technology that enables the freedom either cannot be afforded or is deliberately impeded.
As a generation that has evolved with the Internet, its usage has amalgamated into our gut instinct and reaction. We are that much better with it but that much more dependent on it.
Our predecessors had to turn to religious texts in the face of a quandary. Now, however, when faced with a dilemma; choosing a restaurant or self-diagnosing the symptoms of Ebola or undergoing an existential crisis, answers are at our fingertips. So the question we must ask ourselves is what are we doing with our freedom of thought?