“How wonderful would it be to go back to the way things were? I mean, just keep progressing, but backwards instead of forwards? You know, back to the wonderful days of blatant racism. Back to when gays weren’t even given a closet to hide in. Back when women had a place in the kitchen, not the voting booth.”
—random 70-year-old idiot, stuck in time, hoping to die because they refuse to change.
It all sounds so delightful to some I’m sure. The worst part is that if you ask around a bit, you will find many people that actually agree with this notion, and not just older generations failing to grasp the difficult reality of forward progress.
Take for instance this article: Taking Away the Cheat Sheet
I was recently recommended this article on Twitter by someone I believe to be a very intelligent individual. Being that it was midday on a Wednesday, and I had some time to kill, I dove in for the brief read.
After reading it, I thought of how many times the argument that the author proposes has been brought up, even to me as recently as a couple of months ago.
Now, I have no doubt that the purpose of the article was to pitch the author’s new novel, based on the same premise of the article, and that, overall, the author was presenting the dilemma in a more light-hearted tone. Still, I just can’t help but to play a bit of Devil’s Advocate here and offer up another “What if?” scenario.
If you haven’t read the article yet, I ask that you do read it so that you can understand my own thoughts in regards to it. If you don’t have the time for that, well, here’s a TL:DR of the article’s theme: What if the internet were to be disintegrated? The author believes: “The loss of the Internet would allow us to become someone new.” He also offers examples of how we would connect better with each other by actually having to talk with one another in person, without infinite knowledge at the ready.
I don’t disagree with that. The author’s arguments are sound. My problem stems from the idea that the only way we can better ourselves is to get rid of the internet.
Why must we destroy progress, especially something as vital and important to humankind like the Internet, in order to better ourselves? It’s not just this guy’s opinion of the Internet either.
People have proposed that times were better “back in the day.” Memories flooding their heads with a rose tint, forgetting that not all was so great for everyone back then.
I’m not saying the present, nor the future, is any better. In fact, I believe there will never be peace on earth. There will always be problems, issues and war. They just change with the tides. Our problems now—lack of articulation, over-reliance on technology, willingness to settle for mediocrity, etc.—are just the problems we face today.
These problems may have not existed in the Roaring ‘20s, but the problem of instant communication was prevalent back then. It’s also hard not to think of all the social issues as well. No matter your stance on him, Barack Obama would not have had a chance to even dream of being president of the United States of America in the 1920s.
Getting back to the article, I know the author is not so serious in tone because surely he is aware that the loss of knowledge that he seems to hate so much would be absolutely detrimental to humans the world over.
Would all of the data be lost? No, I’m sure amongst all humans we would be able to piece it back together. But how long would that take? The effort of trying to recover the lost data would impede further progress.
So how about this: Instead of doing the seemingly first human instinct of just destroying and dismissing things we don’t understand, let’s start to work forward and educate our young in the art of conversation, social skills, etc.
The problem isn’t the internet. The internet is a tool, like a hammer or a wrench. Use it wisely, learn what it is capable of, and you will go far. The problem is today’s parents. They need to teach their kids how and when to use tools such as the internet. Just handing them a smartphone or a laptop will surely result in the child doing what they feel best with it, which is understandable.
Bottom line: Parents need to step up and educate their children on the uses of things such as the internet. If they don’t, the child will be subjected to learning those things from their peers. Even Willy Wonka knew who to blame “back in the day”:
We seem to forget how new the internet still is in relation to history. It barely became household accessible in the last 30 years or so, and there are still many people without access to it.
Of course we abused the hell out of it, especially my generation. So much so that, yes, we have become over reliant on instant knowledge at our fingertips. But come on, let’s not be brash and wish for the internet to just be done away with.
As a future teacher, I know that I will face this problem head on when I start to teach. Students will write essays in text lingo, they will crane their necks down to read the last text they just received, they will attempt to look up answers to the quiz on their laptop that they “only use for taking notes.”
I still will not endorse a movement backwards. Can not, will not. Well, except for one exception. I will endorse the progression backward of cartoons that children watch. Because, of course, the cartoons I grew up with were far superior than the drivel nowadays. If you don’t believe me, you can always just look it up on your phone.