Wednesday, July 16, 2008


There's all this talk about whether or not all of these new technologies are making us all dumber than we've ever been. If you've read this blog or just browse through my archives, you'll see that I don't believe this to be the case. What I'm starting to wonder, however, is if all of this information is going to make us bored. We can find out pretty much anything we want with a few keystrokes. We can communicate with people from around the world. We can connect with people who share our interests. Does this ever start to become boring?

I remember as a kid sitting at home paging through an old World Book Encyclopedia and reading about the Roman Empire. I spent hours imagining what else was out there. My access to other information was limited to a pretty miserable public library. When I was very young, my grandmother let me order some sort of cheap plastic Greek toy soldiers out of the back of a comic book and when they arrived I was in heaven. Occasionally my aunt, who worked in Manhattan, would pick something up for me. The anticipation of reading these books was incredible and I'd spend hours imagining what would be inside those books. Ordering Strat-O-Matic baseball cards was in an entirely different universe of expectations. But I digress...

Now I can pretty much get anything I want, whenever I want it. And sometimes I find it boring. There's no challenge, no frustration in having to wait, no delayed gratification. Sometimes I feel like I used to feel the day after Christmas -- I got everything I wanted -- now what?

One part of me says that this instant access should allow me to free up my creativity and pursue personal fulfillment. And that's entirely true. I wouldn't want to go back to the limited and limiting world I inhabited as a boy. But some of the mystery does seem gone. Weber discussed the Entzauberung der Welt (The Dis-Enchantment of the World) long before we had an internet, so it's nothing new. Perhaps it's just a natural result of getting older, I don't know.

But I do sometimes feel like we're at the end of an age that's spent itself out. If people like Ken Robinson are correct, then we have the potential to unleash an incredible age of creativity. And I think that more than anything else keeps me going. This outcome is by no means certain and in the end that's what I still find interesting. The movement from potentiality to actuality, the possibilities of the age, this is what gives our age its distinctiveness.

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