Difference

People always attempt to make the present worse than the past. Of course, this is a sweeping generalization, but I have yet to find anything to the contrary. For example, Nicholas Carr in his article entitled Is Google Making Us Stupid does address the fact that history is built upon change, specifically changes in media; however, when he addresses what he believes to be an increase in interest in artificial intelligence you can almost hear his heart racing and his palms beginning to sweat. In a response to Carr’s essay Clay Shirky remarks, “Nostalgia for the accidental scarcity we’ve just emerged from is just a slideshow; the main event is trying to shape the greatest expansion of expressive capability the world has ever known.” Finally, an excerpt from a short story entitled Funes the Memorious by Jorge Borges, speaks about a man named Ireneo who falls off of a horse and suddenly has access to all of the information his eyes have ever taken in and can easily learn languages such as English, French, Portuguese, and Latin. It is hard to overlook the fact that Ireneo’s mind has started working like a computer, and even harder to overlook the melancholy tone established with this newly established knowledge. Although all of these articles make articulate, and in some cases verbose, points about what the Internet is doing to our minds and cultures, they do not acknowledge what the Internet is doing to our world outside of Western culture.

Since the advent of the wheel people have become closer and closer to each other and each creation sense then has taken monumental leaps to make our world seem smaller. Thus, while reading Carr’s article I, much like Shirky, was surprised by how skeptical Carr was about the creation and improvement of the Internet but seemingly all technologies. In fact, I found myself nodding in agreement about much of what Carr mentioned until he nervously stated, “It’s [the Internet] becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV.” His nervousness is not completely unfounded, with the creation of most technologies does come upheaval; however, Shirky is right in condemning Carr for looking back at the past nostalgically. What I do not agree with Shirky about is the Manifest-Destiny-like attitude she takes while saying that we are, “trying to shape the greatest expansion of expressive capability the world has ever known.” In stating this, she does not acknowledge that while for some this will be “the greatest expansion of expressive capability the world has ever known” for others, things will barely change except perhaps to adversely affect them. Without the voices, expressions, and cultures of those who will not be included there will only be a homogenous expansion.

Towards the end of Funes the Memorious the narrator poetically waxes, “To think is to forget a difference…” However in this world, which is vastly becoming smaller, it is easy to remember peoples differences and condemn them. Conversely, it is easier to think, and compare them to yourself and acknowledge that they are actually not so different. The danger in doing this is to begin to hold yourself as the golden standard for everyone else to be compared to; thus thinking and forgetting the beauty of difference which can be expanded by the Internet.