“Computers make us software”

A thought provoking piece in the Atlantic Monthly entitled: Is Google making us stupid? has attracted a good deal of media attention.

Almost instantly, a semi rebuttal cum discussion of this piece appeared in the New York Times exploring the hypothesis that computers might not be so good for our mental health after all.

Or put in a slightly different manner, computers are rapidly contributing to global sensory overload. We have become like a sparrow devouring enormous amounts of information yet without the requisite filtration system to retain what is of bodily value. This filtration system, as these authors argue, is based on good old analog thinking encouraging contemplation, discussion and deeper reflection. Instead, such age old skills have been sacrificed at the digital alter in favor of Twitter-like ambient awareness, an ‘on demand’ trivia feast lacking any real redeeming human qualities.

Part of the problem seems to be generational: those who are crying foul are more often than not analog veterans, information warriors of the past who bled to get knowledge somewhere in a university library stack.

Another part of the problem is misinterpretation. McCluhan, the guru most often cited in these discussions, has a doozy of an aphorism to sum up this predicament:

” Computers make us software.”

And as we all know, software is only as good as the human brain that carves it out of silicon.

In short, the media has changed: goodbye paper, hello silicon.

No big deal!