Are We the Generation of Idiots As Foretold in the 20th Century?
Do you feel unnecessarily attached to your smartphone and other electronic devices? Are you hopeless without them? Do they interfere with your interaction with family, friends and colleagues?
If so, the meaning of generation of idiots should probably make sense to you. And so should the following statement!
I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.
The above is a popular phrase attributed to the German-born physicist Albert Einstein in the 1940s. The attribution is however deemed incorrect by the scholarly world because of lack of credible documentation. And in any case, he did not really hate technology. He regarded it positively in the fight against war at the time.
Still, Einstein was worried about the effects of science and technology on humanity. His actual words read in part,
I believe that the abominable deterioration of ethical standards stems primarily from the mechanization and depersonalization of our lives–a disastrous by-product of science and technology. Nostra culpa!
The question is, who uttered the infamous quote about the generation of idiots? The answer is unclear even today. Does it matter anyway? Not really. If truth be told, it was well summarized and echoed what Einstein actually thought. He saw a world devoid of ethics and vulnerable to the ills of technology and related advancement in science.
Have His Thoughts Come to Pass?
The world as we know it today is consumed, obsessed and driven by technology and science. Which is a good thing anyway. Who can live without tech today? But again this interaction is going way too far.
To cite one example, face to face communication between family members, friends and workmates is dying. The preferred mode of communication is done via mobile apps in smartphones. We feel incomplete and unworthy unless we are liked and loved through social media. We feel even better talking to smartphones via voice assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa.
Surely, most of us have been transformed into a generation of idiots!
Why Generation of Idiots?
According to Wikipedia, the word ‘idiot’ has undergone a transformation of definitions for historical and cultural reasons.
In the beginning, an idiot was defined as
a person with a very profound intellectual disability
Then later, it referred to a person with
profound mental retardation
Today, an idiot is
a stupid or foolish person
From the first to the last definition, an idiot refers to a person lacking in intellectual abilities and is foolish! Of course, there is an abusive element therein but again, why not? Is it not foolish to allow intrusive mechanization to run our lives?
The concept of generation of idiots makes sense simply because humanity is abusing tech to the levels of addiction. Addiction is itself foolish because that is how we regard it in reference to those who smoke cigarettes and consume alcohol to the extremes.
A few examples and scenarios below can help explain the idiocy thing in us.
1. We Are Anti-Social
Our interaction with electronic gadgets surpasses the interaction with fellow humans. This involves looking, talking and listening to our smartphones, tablets, smart speakers and other Internet of Things devices for longer durations than is necessary. We tweet, share and snap away more than we accomplish anything productive with fellow humans. This happens right between spouses, family members and friends.
Random stats claim most of us check our smartphones 80 to 300 times a day. This implies we only have an average of 12 to 60-minute breaks. That is more than the time we actually look into the eyes of fellow humans in the course of one day.
When we go back home, we spend the few remaining hours of the day glued to the TV, and AGAIN, smartphone screens! There is always a plastic atmosphere at home as our fingers are swiping away repeatedly while the TV speakers take care of the apparent silence in the house.
The question is, do we ever feel remorseful about this? Do we feel like we need to change? Even worse do we feel like we should not discuss it? If so, it points to uncontrollable levels of addiction, which is akin to idiocy!
2. We Are Un-Healthy
The uncontrolled consumption of social media and anything internet requires we bend over and crouch on our beds and chairs all day. We spend countless hours on social media, we shop from the comfort of our chairs, and search for online dates and friends without having to move a limb.
We are so immobile we never reflect on consequences such as maimed body structure and ill health arising from inaction. This leads to obesity, muscular weakness, stiffening of bones, heart complications etc. Immobility also leads to eating disorders. We develop a preference for fast foods because we have little time to cook and EAT!. Fast foods are high in additives, fats and salt and expose us to a host of health-related consequences mentioned above.
Besides, we are a danger to our own selves when we drive and walk while chatting and talking endlessly to our smartphones. We are exposed to untold risks on the road. Many times we survive the dangers that could happen but a few others become victims of avoidable road carnage. While at it we are also endangering the lives of innocent bystanders and drivers!
Let us not forget the threat posed by electromagnetic fields which happens when we use electronic devices in close proximity and for long durations. The smartphone, which is now a permanent feature in our lives is known to emit minimal but constant doses of EMF radiation. In the long run, we are likely to develop glioma and other complications resulting from radio frequency energy overdose.
3. We Post Irrationally
Before the internet and social media became the norm, humanity had time to digest and reflect on information before it was made available for public consumption. The print media was awash with professional editors to minimize errors and eventual blushes. We cared about what people read, thought and felt if the information sent to them was offensive or inappropriate.
The case is different today. Everyone owns an account and has the freedom to post, share and make mistakes on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and of course blogs! We have been tricked into posting and sharing information without much thought. Coupled with the need to stay ahead of the pack, we end up sharing rather private, offensive and embarrassing texts and images. By the time we realize our mistakes, the information is already available for all to see.
The trend has also given rise to the popular fake news meme, which threatens to rip apart our trust of internet data. Even the highly placed in society have not survived the fake news bug. The leaders, media houses and celebrities contribute by spreading their share.
All in all, we are happily contributing true and fake data to the greedy data mining projects by Google and Facebook.
4. Low Attention Span
Between you and I, the readiness to attend to tasks that last for long durations has received a beating. We have so much information and stuff to do at any given time, but less time to solve any one of them. Anything that will take more than 1 minute of our time is bad. It is even worse if it does not appeal to our visualization senses.
We are therefore unable to read lengthy content and opt instead to skim through
- the first few paragraphs
- the excerpts
- highlighted texts and links
The internet is partly to blame for this. The information overload from genuine and fake sites, blogs and social media platforms leave us at a loss.
We interpret the pictures therein to summarise the rest of the writings. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!
Reading through novels and scholarly books has become a chore! I wonder who is going to read lengthy novels and scholarly materials ten years from now. Perhaps writers should turn to audiovisual material in order to stay relevant and appeal to ur evolving senses.
Why is this happening? Perhaps nobody is going to force anyone to read after all. The popularity of micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter and Facebook timeline is also to blame. They have taught us to write small and read small. The images and audiovisual content can do the rest.
In addition, we have embraced multitasking as the answer to accomplishing assignments and other obligations at school, home, and workstations. We engage in social media chats even as we are busy with academic research. Now that employers are hiring work-at-home employees, who is there to stop the trend? Kids are learning this from parents at very early ages. They too will grow up into the next generation of multitasking zombies and seek virtual employment.
5. Bad Robots
As much as robotics provide us with productive toys and industrial tools for mechanization, some inventions are derailing us from what is truly human.
A case in point is the sex robot. The male and female versions of these humanoids should never find their way into our bedrooms – really!
The more we embrace and integrate them into our lives, the more we are killing the very nature of human existence. And the more likely we are turning into idiots!
How About Nurturing the Next Generations?
We either know what we are doing or simply do not care about the effects of tech on those coming after us. Our use of technology will be reflected in those that we care for. These will become their choices and the same will happen to the generations after theirs.
The Final Take
If you have read this article to this point, congratulation. You are probably not from this planet. Of course, you are. But maybe you are not from the generation of idiots after all. This means you still love reading and still do many other things that good people do. That is a good thing.
Your only challenge probably rotates around converting the folly of idiocy in those totally consumed by it into wisdom. It is all about sitting back, reflecting, and making good use of technology to ensure we all do the right thing. The fact is, tech is here to stay and unless we somehow get hit by a gigantic solar flare, which is capable of obliterating modernity as we know it, advancement in computing is only bound to explode. And we have to be part of this evolution.