What if it was OK if we all knew nothing?

With the advent of the Internet and smartphones, a world of information is readily at our fingertips. Duh. And as Wi-Fi and cell phone signal gets more widespread, there are an increasingly few number of places you can go without access to the ocean of information on the world wide web. Also, duh. One result of these two duh-statements is a departure from the reliance on our brains for stored information. We don’t have to remember how many cups are in a gallon (16… yes, I Googled that to be sure) or how tall Detlef Schrempf is or the ingredients of poi (are there ingredients to poi?) because all of that information is already written down. In our pockets. Now let me please note that the argument I am posing goes on one very large and inaccurate statement: everything on the Internet is true. Obviously that is a vastly erroneous claim. Though to be fair, I heard somewhere (probably inaccurately on the internet) that Wikipedia’s accuracy outperformed that of most of the paper-version encyclopedias it was held up against. And not to mention the landslide victory for the Internet in shear variety and volume of information. But again, the entirety of the Internet is nowhere close to considered a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and, again, I am not claiming that. For the sake of this argument I want to pretend (we can still pretend right?) that the Internet is riddled with squeaky-clean truth.

So, what if it’s OK that we don’t memorize things? What if the information-retaining chunk of our brains was replaced by an iPhone that rested in your hand, not inside your skull? You know that Detlef Schrempf is 6’9” because the device in your hand or the computer in your lap told you so. And you always have that device because why wouldn’t you? Or if yours runs out of batteries, borrow a friend’s. Or have a back-up device. Pretending (again) that Wi-Fi covers this entire globe, there is virtually no reason that you shouldn’t have constant access to the largest pool of truth in existence.

I know what you are thinking. “Because everyone would be an idiot!” That’s true. Well, sorta. Imagine for a moment that you could skip past all of the memorization parts of your schooling. You don’t memorize multiplication tables or periodic tables or how many ounces in a tablespoon. You can look that information up or plug it into a calculator. Formulas, dates, historic battles, etc. All able to be looked up. You still learn how to put everything into use. You know why you need to multiply things or what it means that Oxygen has an atomic number of eight. You just don’t have to store the numbers.

OK imagining that? Good. You’re still thinking: “People are still idiots!” They are. Getting more idiotic by the day, in fact. You’ve likely got some scenario like, “What if you’re about to be mauled by a bear and it says, ‘I won’t maul you if you can multiply six time seven without using a calculator.’” You hesitate, then reach for your phone and take a bearclaw to the face. And not the good kind of bearclaw to the face like I had this morning with my scone and coffee. And to this scenario, I say you are exactly right. Perhaps there is even a truer-to-life example where not being an idiot would come in handy, but I really wanted to work in a breakfast joke. It’s the most important joke of the day.

My just-for-kicks float-it-out-there argument is this: What if it was OK if we all knew nothing? And by nothing, I mean things we can look up with that demon device (or Lucifer laptop..?). And the reason I ask this is because perhaps (and this is a stretch of a perhaps) our brains would be freer to develop in other ways. Since the chart is on a screen, our minds don’t have to have those pesky atomic numbers floating around. Instead our right brains could kick into action big time. We could write more creatively, draw with greater detail, philosophize with deeper passion. Since our left brains found cheaper real estate in our pockets, our right brains moved in, bulldozed the classic two-story Victorian and put in a basketball court.

I’m not condoning memorizing nothing and/or general idiocy. Just posing for a moment that perhaps there could be some good to freeing your mind of things to which you will always have access. I can hear the Nostalgics in the room choking on their anger. They can’t udder the words, “Back in my day,” fast enough. Relax, you two-mile-uphill walkers, we get it. You built this country on knowing your multiplication tables, and that’s awesome. I’m merely suggesting opening your mind to the possibility that some good could accidentally surface from our device-driven existence. But I hear getting that left brain to open is a real bitch.


~ by Peyton Lea on June 21, 2012.

One Response to “What if it was OK if we all knew nothing?”

  1. You make some interesting points here. But here’s another thought- what if everything we learned from rote memorization isn’t really floating around taking up valuable creative space? I mean, how often do we think of multiplication tables, where every battle of the Civil War occurred, or who was the 32nd President of the US? Perhaps that information is tucked away only to be brought out when we absolutely need it. Perhaps our left brains are already opened enough for us to dig deeper into our creativity, but we’re afraid of what would happen if we tapped into such unfamiliar territory, so we don’t.
    Personally, I think there’s room in our minds for memorized information and for creative things. I don’t constantly think of how many feet are in a mile, but I have the comfort of knowing that information is in my mind without me having to look it up. (It’s 5,280, no Google necessary) I like knowing that useful information is there should I ever need it. I assume that some other people out there probably feel that way, too.
    In my opinion, having to look up information on the internet doesn’t make a person stupid. What someone lacks in book smarts, he/she may make up for it athletics, creativity, ninja skills, etc. Failing to live up to your potential and passing up opportunities simply out of fear? Now THAT makes someone an idiot.
    P.S. About that bearclaw to the face… Was that before or after you took an arrow to the knee?

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