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Killing Smartness… with Smartphones: the disenchantment of memory?

Do you remember the way you used to look at your grandfather? An old man with some leftover white hair, carefully combed to one side in order to disguise the bald spots on his head. Perhaps he would sit in his armchair, smoking an old pipe, blowing grey smoke into the air. Didn't he convey ease, wisdom, even omniscience? Whatever question asked, you could count on a far-reaching, well elaborated answer, containing even the smallest detail.

In today's society there is no need for omniscient people anymore. Nowadays, every amateur enthusiast is able to answer the most challenging questions in a split second. Smartphones enable us to discover every particular whatsoever by only one look at the small black (sometimes pink) device we tend to carry around. Finally, no tedious brooding anymore. The world of information is handed on a silver platter! Not a bad thing, is it? People are smart, confident and influential. Well, at least they feel this way. The devil still is in the details – which they turn their backs on.  

I don't want to moan too much here. To be clear: I am one of these people who do enjoy the advantages of connectivity and I also have a look on my phone every now and then and in between. Smartphones made our world more efficient. They freed us from being bound to places. They made it easier to ration our time. Considering the hustle and bustle of today's society, the Smartphone constitutes a considerable benefit for humankind. I totally agree.

Still, these 'advantages' have to be taken with a pinch of salt. I am concerned that my generation, and especially future generations, will lose the ability to memorize new information. We will still remember broader backgrounds; that's for sure. Details, dates and simple facts without a clear context however, will remain the mysteries of our phones.

Do you remember a point in time you were really racking your brain about a piece of information? Mulling over it for hours, maybe days, having the answer right at the tip of your tongue? And, even more important, can you recall the feeling you had when you finally remembered this ridiculous and certainly very trivial detail? Release. Joy. Maybe pride. Don't you miss this? Nowadays, people don't even start pondering. Instantaneously they will type in whatever is asked for. Google tops it all, by tinkering a question-and-answer programme which finally makes contemplating completely superfluous. It's just more comfy this way. New generations become lazy.

Most probably, I am not talking on behalf of the majority of readers. Most people will neglect the downside to this – to being omniscient 24/7 – and rather focus on all its advantages. As far as I am concerned however, I don't like the image of my omniscient grandfather being replaced by the idea of an old man pulling out his phone to answer a question. I believe that hyper-connectivity endangers individuals and society as a whole by slowly flattening general knowledge. This process will strip our society of its assets.


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