Just as I was about to plant some raspberries, I turned to Google to find out when and how to do it. I love Google being able to understand questions such as When to plant raspberries? or When was George Washington born? or What is the capital of Moldova? Believe it or not, the programme for analyzing customer journeys to enaA.com also reveals very long questions. Several months ago, a customer entered the following query into Google: “Which LED TV set for less than €400 is best for kids and a living room of 5 x 4 metres?” Of course, Google knows that such TV sets are also featured on www.enaA.com, so the customer was referred to us.
But, is Google truly the tool or invention that will take the entire human race to the next level? This reminded me (without having to resort to Google to look it up) of an ancient story that was written around 400 BC. And yes, I would have to google the exact date.
Today, we tend to forget that in the beginning letters and words were not written down. Plato, through a dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus, tells the legend of Thamus (alias Amun, Amun-Ra etc.), the ancient Egyptian king of gods, taking place at a time when people started to use writing.
At one time Thamus was host to the god Toth who was one of the most important Egyptian gods and the initiator of science and art, the inventor of numbers, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, geometry, botany, theology, medicine and writing. Toth boasted that writing would make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories. Thamus replied: “The inventor is not always the best judge of his own inventions. Those using your invention will no longer train their memory and will become forgetful. They will put their trust in written sources when they want to retrieve information, and not to their memory. Your people will possess wisdom kept in records, and not their own wisdom. In time, there will be more and more records without any criteria or instructions. Rather than an advantage, such wisdom will become a burden. Instead of growing wiser, they will grow increasingly ignorant, instead of their memory becoming alive, they will neglect it and become forgetful.”
Let’s imagine Larry Page and Sergey Brin paying a visit to Thamus today. They would say how they had found a way to organize all the information in the world and make it available and useful to the whole world. They would conclude that from now on everyone can know everything.
Yet Thamus would reply: “Those who use your invention will no longer accumulate knowledge and will therefore know less and less. When they are curious about something, they will google it. They will boast about the knowledge that is stored on the world-wide web, and not what they themselves know to be true. In time, more and more knowledge will be at their fingertips without any criteria or instructions. Rather than an advantage, such knowledge will be a burden.”
Writing enabled mankind to evolve. So did the internet and Google, but don’t take everything that is written too literally! Let me just remind you of the copy-paste doctoral and masters theses, and the ease some people talk about things they know nothing about, apart from knowing that they are trending, not to mention politics. This is knowledge without criteria and instructions. This is boasting using someone else’s knowledge. Technology alone is therefore not enough to take us to the next level.
Copyright 2023 Aljoša Domijan