A friend of mine made the above statement recently; I was a little perplexed because he was a Muslim. If he were an atheist I would have pointed out the contradiction in terms, if agnostic I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. He clarified his position in that he meant god in the lesser sense and as a concept which could compete with `smaller` gods. Do we dare say Google is Omnipotent, Omniscience and Omnipresent? (OO) I digress, this is not a theological dialogue. Let’s get to the crux of the matter.
For the past few months, I have been reflecting on the impact technology has had on `our` (limited to western society) ability to think, communicate and function. I know from whence I speak. In 2012, I returned to study eight years after finishing Uni. My first assignment was due for submission within 10 weeks.… this was a long time so I thought….I procrastinated for three weeks before tackling the assignment. I typed the question on Google, within a split second it had given me thousands of links. The first 10 links didn’t give me the required answers so I rephrased the question. I read a few more links but to no avail. The only way I can describe how I felt is to imagine a Bedouin lost in a snowstorm in Alaska…no hope. For a week, I stuck to Google like glue, I refused to believe Google couldn’t give me the answer…. I mean come on….this is Google. Two weeks after a many different re-phrasing and reading useless links, I felt that Google had made me dumb. I had forgotten the skills required to study, research, review, books, etc. Panic set in and I began praying to God. Long story short, I went into a Library borrowed some books and submitted the assignment on time. (Now ask yourself honestly, when last you went to a library to gather information) I am not blaming Google for making me dumb or for decrease of intellect in the `world`, one cannot ultimately discount personal responsibility. But I put it out there that the ease and volume for which information can be accessed has contributed to the general decline of the average intellectual aptitude. I mean, why should one go hunting when the game can come to one’s dinner table? With ready access to so much information, we have to dispose of the old more quickly to make space for the new. We lose the capacity and ability to dissect, process and reflect on what on the information we have received.
My people, don’t let us confuse information with knowledge. Google and other technologies should be used as a tool not a means. I am sure all are familiar with the phrase “just Google it”, now compare that to Mathew 7:7 “Ask and you shall receive” (paraphrased). Or the ultimate Oh my God (OMG), we say this things without even realising their significance. (NOW DON’T FORGET, this is not a theological post) “I read it on Google” is probably the most dangerous statement one can make during an argument. I would respond “but have you read the latest version” (LGW). Although we now have ready access to the works of Socrates, Wole Soyinka and John Rawls, “I read it on Google” seems to have more weight. (Don’t get me started on Wikipedia….yeeesssh) There is a fear to quote these intellectuals because one may come across as too serious or erudite. Kwame Ture once said “Ignorance is no excuse for a debate”. Need I say more?
You may think that I am Google bashing, no believe me, I “love” google, I have used it approximately 20 time in the process of writing this post. Technology is intrinsic to my daily life… to a certain degree. It has positive and negative effects on the world (that is discussion for another day) I use Google maps on a weekly basis, google books, google drive etc. But I am weary that the world will become so reliant on technology that slowly but surely we will decrease the use of our brains. If something is not exercised or used, its function diminishes and becomes useless…this is dangerous.
Wisdom is gained over the course of a lifetime, knowledge is sourced and attained over a period time and information is provided in an instant. I believe society has become lazy, there is no desire to look behind the curtain or walk down the yellow brick road. But ironically, Google should the start of that yellow brick road, walk down the path and there are endless possibilities. It’s a gateway for which if one has the will, desire and intellectual courage can change the world for the better. A word of warning: intellectual courage without intellectual humility is in itself dangerous. There was a time people used to travel for months and even years to visit majestic libraries in Alexandria and Timbuktu. Knowledge was valued and Scholars were revered because it was known that they worked hard to gain that knowledge. But now that we have answers to a million questions at our finger tips, we have stopped searching for meaning. There has never been a time in history when the level literacy has been so high but yet, the level of intellectual capacity is on the decline. If this is not the perfect example of irony, I don’t know what it is.
I conclude by saying that, I do not blame Google for the ills or congratulate them for goodness of the world but merely to acknowledge technology’s powerful influence on shaping the 21st century mind-set. Ultimately, they have laid down a path, it’s up to us walk down it, ask questions and seek meaningful answers. We should never stop the quest for meaning, human beings have a natural desire to seek answers. There is a school of thought which suggests that this is the purpose of religion. Has Google taken over this function? What say ye?
Before you answer the question, please ponder the following Chinese proverb:
“When the wise man is pointing at the moon, the fool is looking at the finger”
Thanks for reading and thanks to my fellow collaborators (TK, DM, TO, OO SC, JA, and LGW)
**Coined by T. Sadiku
Till next time….KKB Out