A Generation of Idiots?


This image was sent to me by my brother, Evil-E, whom some of you already know. The subject line of the original email was, Einstein was right yet again. Was he? Well, not quite. First of all, this a misquote. His original quote was, "I fear that technology has surpassed our humanity," and he wasn't talking about some benign technology like radio, television or cell phones. He was talking about the atomic bomb. I feel that Einstein was absolutely right in his quote.

This post does not focus on Albert Einstein, but on the misquote in the image. I am not going to doubt that people can act like complete idiots when it comes to  new technology, but this is hardly a new phenomenon. Technology has been around since our earliest ancestors picked up a stick and poked a wasp nest (there was a lesson learned that day). Many of the biggest advancements in all of humanity were met head-on by a group idiots who stared at it with amazement and then proceeded to act like idiots. How many dirty jokes were sent over the telegraph wire? How much gossip was spread over the telephone in the early days? The operators used to eavesdrop on phone calls and neighbors could listen in on conversations thanks to party lines. The printing press was even used in a socially unacceptable manner by printing things that only the church was able to print before. 

Today, people complain about technology causing "socially unacceptable" behavior. I disagree. Human nature is the reason for this behavior and that's because humans are naturally curious beings. Technology excites most people and they want to be amazed by the electronic wizardry that's going on within the small gadgets of today. I myself am still amazed at the ridiculous smallness of my 32GB Micro SD card that stores music in my phone. I am also in awe of the fact that my phone has more storage capability and more power than my first two computers...combined. Now, mind you, I don't sit there are ponder how it could possibly be done. As an electronics technician, I know how it's done, but it still amazes me.

As far as technology making us idiots, tell that to the citizens of several Middle Eastern countries that used Twitter on cell phones to organize nationwide protests against oppressive government regimes. Tell me that Twitter is only good for telling people what we had for breakfast. Tell me that the cell phone is keeping people from communicating in this case. If this wasn't the reason that the protests were so widespread and so well publicized, why was Egypt so quick to block access to Twitter and Facebook. Google stepped up with a phone number for people to call to send tweet by voice-to-text. Yet, there are still tech journalists who will claim that social networking drives us apart.

The 24-hour news cycle is using Twitter as a source for breaking news because the crowdsourcing and spreading of information is so much quicker through social media as opposed to traditional media. It still requires fact-checking and verification (and those that constantly refuse to do it will be left behind), but it still takes far less time to find out what's happening.

People will be people no matter what kind of devices are in their hands.  I was glad to find that this quote was not actually said by Professor Einstein because I think he would be generally accepting of the new technologies. I pay attention to what's coming in the next few months and I still amazed by what's out there. I'm glad that we continue to have the technology to complain about and be amazed by; it means that we're moving forward. But, as I write all of this and extol the virtues of modern technology, I am still embracing the old custom of sending Christmas cards by mail. We can't replace some things with electronic goodies.