The Brain of Slaves

As a carpenter, I’m very aware of the risks that materials and labor present. Asbestos, lead, mold, on the one hand; falls, sprains, cuts, on the other. Not surprisingly, as a new media blogger type, I’ve also been concerned about this sort of thing:

“All this information is done in short, quick bursts,” [Tom Kersting, a student assistance coordinator at Indian Hills High School and a psychotherapist in private practice in Ridgewood, N.J.,] said in a telephone interview. “So they have a difficult time, cognitively, nowadays developing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, because they are so used to quick burst and tweets of information.” …
Kersting said that students’ brains are essentially being rewired to adapt to the way they communicate. In the process, they may lose the ability to relay ideas and interact with people in the way others had done before. If teens stop communicating with their friends and others face to face, they will lose the ability to navigate complex social situations and that could be devastating for them when they are faced with college and job interviews, Kersting said.

Nobody is claiming, I don’t believe, that there aren’t pluses to new ways of doing things, even of thinking — especially given the ways in which human society is reshaping its activities. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t prudent to maintain old habits, practices, and abilities.
We still need plenty of in-person interaction (perhaps at recess!), and it’s a valuable trait to have the capacity to sit down quietly and read a book for hours on end. That blend of personal independence and ability to read others’ non-verbal cues and to convey complicated intellectual and emotional messages blending multiple forms expression, bland as it may seem, may just turn out to be critical to avoiding a state of slavery in the future.

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David P
David P
11 years ago

Newspeak, the language invented by George Orwell for “1984,” nicely illustrates the connection between language and docility. In creating Newspeak the Party simplified the vocabulary as much as possible by eliminating many synonyms so that, for example, all the variations of good and bad, such as outstanding, horrible, etc. were reduced to “good” and “ungood.” Degrees of goodness or badness were indicated by adding the prefixes “plus” or “double plus” so that something really bad would be described and “double plus ungood.” Orwell posited that by reducing the ability to express ideas, the ability to actually have ideas and think about them would atrophy. It seems to me that reducing the space in which to express an idea to a text or twitter screen can have the same effect.

11 years ago

I am struck by the similarity of twitter conventions to hieroglyphs. There really does not appear to be much difference between the Egyptian symbol for water which looks like a wavy line (^^^^^^) and a twitter pictograph like 🙂 signifying approval.
Personally, I prefer the King’s English, but it remains to be seen if twitter conventions will dumb down the society or represent a paradigm shift and a whole new approach to written (pictorial) expression.

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