The Fall of Civilization as We Know It

Once upon a time, people talked to each other. That stopped long ago. Today, is there anyone who bothers with face-to-face communication anymore? No there is not. Everyone just spends hours staring at rectangles in front of them, and talks to things instead of people. Yes, everything was originally created by a person, but there’s still no human contact at all. No mere thing can think or feel. However many minds we can exchange information with, that’s still no substitute for an actual conversation.

People today are more isolated than ever before. If you put a handful of people in a room together, it used to be that they would talk to each other. Now, talking to people is something to be avoided. They just all pull out their gadgets and commence ignoring each other. Those gadgets are sucking all the feeling and meaning out of human existence. If “human” is even the right word any more.

Nowhere in nature is there anything resembling this modern technology.  It is used by humans only, and it works against the traits that make us human. These devices have no human feelings, and the more they are used the less contact there is with real people. Less personal means less human, and isolating people from one another is turning them into machines. This is the inevitable result of anything this artificial and unnatural.

Can you communicate a tone of voice or a twinkling eye over a text-only medium? All you can send are words. Words are great, but imagine a conversation where the words are the only information being sent, with the tone of voice or body language left to guesswork.  It would be monotonous in every sense. Not to mention ambiguous; you wouldn’t even be able to detect sarcasm! Communication should be face-to-face, and anything else is inferior.

We live in an age of more communication than ever before, and most of it is useless. In the world as it used to be, you would get a piece of information and act on it. Now it’s expected that most of the information you get doesn’t apply to your life at all. We receive record amounts of news from the other side of the world, and then proceed to devour it and ignore it. Of the things you read recently, what percent affect your life at all? How much is going to change your actions? How much is completely frivolous? People put all their effort into collecting information that they know is useless.

Nobody understands anything anymore. They don’t need to, because “I don’t know, but I can find the answer right here” is considered an acceptable answer. So they depend on access to completely useless lists of facts, and let that stand in for actually knowing anything. Instead of being educated, they substitute having information at their fingertips. This is not how knowledge is supposed to work.

People are meant to be people, not some unholy mass of collected information. But everyone supports this new technology, because they’ve always associated information with intelligence. Real knowledge is more natural than that. You either know something or you don’t. This modern use of gadgets is no better than using technology to give people better memories or computing power, and it’s obvious that making people smarter through technology is wrong. “Unnatural” doesn’t begin to cover this; it’s more like “dehumanizing and immoral.”

But if all this technology can make people smarter, it also has the opposite problem. When was the last time you memorized a poem, or had a conversation about philosophy, or did any of the things people used to do all the time? Anything involving thinking is just too hard for all the technology-dependent people, which is everybody, so nobody does it. You can get all your thoughts in pre-arranged packages, so there’s no need to think for yourself.

And everyone consumes all the same content. Whatever’s currently popular, you can count on everyone being intimately familiar with all of that and completely unfamiliar with anything else. Mass distribution of information makes it easier than ever before to just do what everyone else is doing and not bother forming your own opinions.

This is all before even considering the physical effects. People spend hours staring at their rectangles, not moving from one spot. Often, they don’t bother getting out of bed. Inactivity is at an all-time high because anybody can get their favorite entertainment on demand. We’re amusing ourselves to death.

Anyway, this is why I’m opposed to books.


3 thoughts on “The Fall of Civilization as We Know It

  1. Montague

    I recently saw an xkcd comic on a similar topic, and it got me thinking that though this progressive technological advancement has existed throughout history (though I argue it has been disproportionately worshiped in modern times (i.e. the last 150 years) feeding and being fed by technological advance) the basic critique does not seem to be unsound. Compared with “olden days” people in general do have less personal mental power and breadth. Some of this is compensated for (and a great deal more can be compensated for by individual effort) by the advantages of such advances as writing, the printed book, and the internet. But the dependency, culturally and personally, are real and undeniable.

    To put is short and sweet, “The persistence and repetition of the critique of external information storage and transport does not reflect the invalidity of such criticisms, but the persistence and repetition of increase in the volume of externalized storage and increase of speed in its transport (which is called very often progress, but to what point is not so often made clear)”

    I’m sure Trans-humanists are having a field-day on the thought that humans like this technology.

    1. Nate Gabriel Post author

      I don’t mind agreeing that awesome things have downsides. In fact, the majority of the criticisms I was making fun of are sound ones. They just also apply to things like books and newspapers that are supported by the people who use the arguments.
      It’s definitely true that the negative effects, especially the dependence, are only accelerating. But I still think technological advancement is a good thing (only instrumentally good, but helpful for a shockingly large number of terminal goals), and I’d still rather be in a world with the gadgets than without them.

  2. archon

    I actually think that a lot of these arguments apply much more effectivly to books than to the internet. the internet has solved many of those problems, between improved notation(i.e. 😀 to indicate happyness or exicetment), and incrased bandwidth (to allow video). and also just a culture that gets this stuff better. also, i read through the entire thing thinking “this is rediculous, i hope there is some kind of twist ending or something because otherwise this will be silly” and the was! thanks for that.


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