One of the most flattering accusations that I’ve encountered to date is that of intellectual snobbery. I know and use words that people don’t and have often not even heard. E.g. cruciverbalism, the creation of crosswords (don’t ask). I refer to books or facts that others haven’t a clue about. I quote dead people. Terrible state of affairs, that. So since I’m not going to escape the majority view of being a smarty-pants, here I confess:
As of Sunday evening, I’m hooked on to a live Economist debate.
The topic is mass intelligence. Or as the website puts it “This house believes that in its appetite for culture, the world is wising up more than it is dumbing down.” A scholar, Susan Jacoby, and an editor, Tim de Lisle, take sides and readers are invited to join in. I’ve read both sides, their rebuttals and those of the moderator as well, and I must say, I’ve not got this much food for thought in quite a while.
Which is why I feel compelled to regurgitate (whoops, there I go again) some of that food over here. (The previous entries are shorter, simpler and less thought provoking, if you’d rather not be bothered):
Tim de Lisle speaks of technology as a hero, talking about how convenient it has made creativity. Photography, videos, gaming, online texts and blogging are all the modern avatars of art and literature, and hence culture, to him. To Susan Jacoby, the web has drastically reduced the attention span of youngsters, seducing them away from the reading habit.
Perennial fence-sitter that I am, I can’t help but see the point in both these sides. But I’m siding with Ms. Jacoby on this one. See, I admit that people have never clicked, recorded or typed quite so much before. But how much of that is art and how much is pure self-indulgence (like this little piece) is a matter of opinion. I do mourn the death of reading anything more than 200 words at a go. 10, in advertising, if you’re feeling particularly verbose. And yes, the average 20-year-old now truly has the attention span of a particularly dull goldfish (Brother dearest being a classic example), while at the same time having absolutely no clue what the hell Michelangelo did to Sistine Chapel, whoever she is. And because that really isn’t enough, we in India have proposals to make Maths optional, to simplify syllabus so that all students can pass, and of course, why not, do away with all examinations till the 7th standard. Yes, we’re really getting on the smart bus now.
My point is that the internet has made life simpler, fostered creativity and in general given us many more options regarding what to do with our time. But we all know how much of that time is spent on Facebook and how much in reading an Economist debate.