Well, they worried that the calculator would distance kids from an
understanding of the mathematical principles that its functions shortcut,
and to a degree they were right. Now Sven takes Bob’s words to an extreme
and wonders whether these new reading options won’t, over time, encourage a
kind of cognitive slackness. Not today, not tomorrow, but soon… May I
quote from myself (I think Michael did once, so it must be OK)? From an
essay I wrote on the Perseus project:

“Once it dawns on us, as it must, that our software will hold all the
information we need at ready access, we may very well let it. That is, we
may choose to become the technicians of our auxiliary brains, mastering not
the information but the retrieval and referencing functions. At a certain
point, then, we could become the evolutionary opposites of our forebears,
who, lacking external technology, committed everything to memory. If this
were to happen, what would be the status of knowing, of being educated? The
leader of the electronic tribe would not be the person who knew most, but
the one who could execute the broadest range of technical functions.”

A bit apocalyptic, but I’ll let it stand.

Return to the Dialog