The basic building blocks of being human is communication. We use signs, words, and images to share our common experience with each other. Without communication we are reduced to isolation and nothingness. This is why not only what we share but how we share words and ideas makes all the difference.
In most countries information is shared electronically, that is via the Internet. How we communicate develops what we become and ultimately who we are collectively and individually. And context is everything—words take their meaning by the company they keep. This is why the context within which we communicate, by and large, determines the meaning of our communication.
For more than a decade Google is the most powerful Internet search engine: more than 3.5 billion searches happen on Google daily. Google locates information and is the brain of the Internet; indeed as many studies have shown, the very way our brain functions has shifted dramatically.
According to Academic Earth, “In a 2011 experiment published in Science Magazine, college students remembered less information when they knew they could easily access it later on the computer. With 49% of Americans now toting around Google on their smart phones, researchers concluded that the effect is the same. We’re relying on Google to store knowledge long-term, instead of our own brains.”
In short, Google has become our memory. And now, Philip K. Dick’s Science-Fiction story, Total Recall, that seemed so implausible 25 years ago, has become our modus operandi. What we remember has become how we remember things, events, and facts.
Any entity institution or corporation that controls how we remember our shared experience should raise grave warning signs for that which controls information, knowledge and memory controls the world.
Sarah Woodbury cites an estimate literacy rate in 1500 England to be between 10-25% for males. While today the literacy rate may be near 100% in the US, we must attend to the quality and effectiveness of communication. You can be literate, but if the majority of people are unable to communicate complex ideas, feelings, and coherent thoughts then, although we may be technically literate, we are at the same time, becoming more shallow and intolerant. We want just the facts in as short pithy phrase, the fragment.
So although we share information through multiple channels and modes (texting, private messages, chats etc.) what we are communicating has lost depth, color, expression and feelings. Put differently, the way we communicate has subverted communication as such. And with massive public cuts to education, cultural development, the arts, and music in the States over the past 40 years, where can we go to find the depth of the human experience? Of course, we can still read novels, but the average American reads less than one book a year. We are starved for depth, for feelings and emotional expression beyond intolerance and anger.
With Google controlling how we recall information and our modes of communication lacking depth and feelings, the society that has developed has become a danger to itself not only on the level of policies, but also on the level of being human.
What we need is an investment in communication and a diversification of information storage banks and traditions. What is needed is a public investment in education and the arts focusing on the development of human feelings, depth and critical tolerant civic engagement.