Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How Much Knowledge?

[Hypocrisy Alert! The fact that I'm blogging this article is ...]

I just read an article (online) that the FBI is pretty sure our next great terrorist attack will come as an Internet invasion, as hostiles will attempt to or succeed at shutting down our financial infrastructure and bringing down our entire system of government in one fell swoop. All by hacking into and taking control of our computer systems.

Seems that while you and I were sleeping all our banks, government offices, and other vital components were transformed from real life brick and mortar, paper and ink, flesh and blood separate entities, into one huge, interlinked, electronic system of delicate information exchanges. One that is apparently quite accessible to any bad guy with a computer and an Internet link.

Another blessing of the Internet and the Information Age.

Seems to me this whole mess has been more trouble than benefit to mankind.
Oh, I know. I know. Per the Alert at the top of this article, I'm well aware of the hypocrisy of using a blog on the Internet to complain about the Internet. But, just like so many others, if it's available, I'll use it to get the word out to my firends. And the bloody WWW.web has increased our access to services, goods, and knowledge.

But, honestly, how much of what we've gotten from the web do we really need? We got along, as the human race for thousands of years without instantaneous answers to every question we could come up with, from worldwide news, up-to-the-minute weather, and live stock exchanges motions, to Britney Spear's latest crisis, recipes for dinner tonight, and pornographic chat rooms.

Have we really, really benefited from all this in meaningful ways that we couldn't have lived without otherwise?

Yes, today, thanks to the Internet, almost all knowledge is literally at our fingertips. If your son is writing a paper on string theory or on Abraham Lincoln, he only has to "Google" either term and he has millions of sources from which to learn, or copy-and-paste-plagiarize.

But weren't thousands of Lincoln papers researched and written before the advent of www.web? And if it weren't of the Internet, who would even care about string theory?

How much knowledge do we need at our fingertips in order to lead happy productive lives anyway? When we lived simpler (dumber?) lives, we were focused more on our families, our homes, our neighbors and community, and on living life daily. Now we have bookstores (mostly online) packed with books bemoaning our loss of those very connections, and telling us how to find them in the midst of our hectic, ulcer-ridden lives.

Just how vital is it that your daughter knows - and purchases - every Jonas Brothers song? Or that your son has the very latest version of World of Warcraft? How much will the Internet and their addictive use thereof prepare them for life in the real world among bosses, husbands and wives, and competition? In what ways will it improve their health and strength to allow them to live comfortable lives?

The sad conclusion most folk arrive at is that once Pandora's Box has been opened it can't be closed. But, at least in the case of your family and the Internet (and television), that ain't necessarily so. You can determine now, at the beginning of a new year, to slam that lid shut. Set television viewing limits to times you can all share it as a family activity, watching only programs which will honestly improve your family's way of life and your unity.

And as for the Internet, if you don't have a computer, you can't catch the latest batch of computer viruses, can you? Nor do you have to police your children's usages and guard them from predators and scams. With the simple riddance of this one expensive luxury, you can simplify your family's lives and reduce your costs across the board, from software updates to electricity usage.

Want a meaningful change in 2009? Step back to 1959. Carry your family back to a more reasonable, quieter, healthier era.

I dare you.

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