I sit at my slightly untidy desk wondering: Am I smarter than my ancestors? Considering the fact that I have the world, so to speak, at my fingertips, that I can satisfy almost any bit of curiosity in my head simply by framing the question in my mind and then typing it into a search engine on my computer, shouldn't the question more appropriately be: Just how much smarter than my ancestors am I?
Of course, it is a very easy thing to waste my access to such an unparalleled wealth of knowledge. I could spend all my time searching for news of Britney's most recent mental collapse, or of the alarming rate of decomposition of the remains of Anna Nicole as the authorities race to put them in the ground before they become too repulsive to look at. Indeed, if we are to judge based upon the search terms most often entered into the search engines, these are the issues most people are concerned about. They will not grow in smarts, that is true.
However, the fact remains that some of us are making an attempt to take advantage of the incredible ease with which it is possible to learn new things from the Internet. My parents did not have this opportunity, and for most of my life, neither did I. But today I can attend lectures on particle physics by none other than Richard Feynman, winner of the 1965 Nobel prize for physics, and I can do so without leaving my chair. Tomorrow I can feast on the musings of Don Knuth, Stanford University's Professor Emeritus of the Art of Computer Programming. If a question occurs to me about how to repair a leak in my bathroom faucet, I can access hundreds of step-by-step instructions, with pictures, from a hundred different sources, in a matter of seconds. Somehow I think that this is significant development. But wait, there's more!
In the course of my day, I do not only increase my knowledge and understanding of physical reality and home repair. I also interact with other people. I read and assimilate their thoughts and feelings on a tub-full of topics. They read and assimilate mine. I find out what is going on in the world, and what people are saying and thinking about what is going on in the world.
Question: How is this changing me?
Question: How is this changing humanity?
I welcome your thoughts.