The twentyfirst century was supposed to bring us flying cars and time machines. But we’re still slaves to gravity and the fourth dimension. The only forecast Hanna Barbara got right with the Jetsons was the idea that we could type any question into a computer and get an answer.
If you are having a debate over whether the actress Marisa Tomei can really be 44 you can find out. If you can’t remember what day of the week Christmas was in 1986 Google will tell you. If you’re uncertain whether Ashli, who you met last night in that dark bar, was really hot or if it was the alcohol, type her name and city in Facebook and you can find a clearer picture. If you want to know what the secret to life is, go here and discover spelling and punctuation are meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
It boggles my mind what is stored in our collective databases. Last week when I was looking up information on Alan Ogg, among the obscurest of athletes, not only did I find the box scores for games seventeen years in the past I also found an amazing five page story about him. We have come a long way from having to walk to a library and dig out card catalogs and microfiche.
Now the question is what do we do with all this information. If we’re flooded with knowledge, the important aspects get lost within the trivial. For instance, most people can tell you the names of all the judges in American Idol, but would have trouble naming as many members of the Supreme Court. But to me there’s a more terrifying aspect of this great technology.
American culture has always prided street smarts over book smarts. In a way I wholeheartedly agree with this attitude. I’m a lifelong reader, but there’s a reason why first hand experience gets higher pecking order in journalism school then third hand knowledge. There’s something to be lost by not being attuned to the moment. It’s beautiful that one can tune in to cyberspace to find any answer, but it’s tragic when you see people always glued to their ipods and blackberries. There is only one now and one might discover more about a person by asking them a question rather then checking their Facebook status.