The Lost Art of Thinking

We’ve been noticing a scary trend in the world. Our devices – phones, tablets, ereaders, computers – are trying to do all our thinking for us.

They remember phone numbers, names, addresses. They guide us through our travels, telling us when to turn and the most direct route to take. They decide what words we are trying to type and helpfully (and sometimes humorously) insert them into our texts.

Did you ever try to format a novel? The word processing program makes all sorts of assumptions about what you are trying to do.  It adds blank pages where you do not want them. It tries to indent lines. It adds bullets where none are desired. It does all this because it has been programmed to make assumptions about what you are trying to do and then rush in oh-so-helpfully to make your life easier.

The trouble is computers are not good at thinking. They are not capable of nuance, they don’t understand exceptions. They are rigid, by-the-book, follow-the-rules kind of thinkers. And yet with every new device, every updated program, we are allowing them to do more and more of our thinking for us.

Why? It saves times. It’s convenient. It’s just so damn easy.

No one remembers phone numbers anymore. No one needs to learn or even remember how to get to a new location. We don’t have to memorize addresses. We don’t even have to remember what books we have read. Somewhere, in the gigantic world we call the Internet, a database exists that tracks every book purchase and every other purchase for that matter.  Our computers remember our logins and passwords so that we don’t have to.  They remind us of birthdays. They make recommendations on everything from what we should read next to whom our perfect lover might be.

Don’t believe computers are thinking for you? Take this simple test. Can you dial the phone numbers of your family and closest friends without looking the numbers up? Can you drive to a place you have never been before without a GPS? Do you remember all your logins and passwords? Can you recall birthdays in a timely-enough fashion to send a card?

Many folks will claim life is so hectic, so stressful, so gosh-darned busy, that having computers remember things for us is a wonderful idea. And, yes, as tools go, computers are pretty amazing, and they make life easier in many ways. However, our brains, like our bodies, become out-of-shape from lack of use. Computers take from us a vital function. They are directing our decisions. They are becoming our memories.

 

 

About jmdattilo

J.M. Dattilo is our pen name. We are the authors of the Time's Edge sci-fi/fantasy series.

Posted on July 1, 2012, in Computers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. All true. But Socrates or one of those other ancient Greeks were purported to have said the same thing about written language. Before the first “PDA” with a whopping 4k of memory, we all kept personal address books. I still have a few I kept. And before Google Maps I relied on the Hagstrom maps for CT. (And if the directions are complicated or I miss a turn and don’t have a street map, I will fall back on GPS.) So I think there are still plenty of new challenges and tasks to keep our brains occupied besides just rote memorization. (And spellczech can always be turned off. 🙂

  2. Yes, advances in technology are always greeted in some quarters with doom and gloom. We didn’t mean that computers are bad. (We wouldn’t want to write a book without one!) We just have noticed lately that many of our friends seem to have lost the ability to remember their passwords, phone numbers, etc. One even told us they missed a party because their GPS was not working and they couldn’t figure out how to get there! (An excuse, we know, but still!)

    We’re not fans of rote memorization, but the ability to store and recall bits if information is important. Kind of like taking a walk every day.

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