Can you imagine what someone in the year 1000 would think if they looked into a crystal ball and saw the invention of the Internet? Imagine what would run through the head of an ancient man if he found out that, in the future, humanity would have at its disposal a tool that would instantly give any person access to all attainable information. Contemplate what this man would envision if he only knew that his descendants could effortlessly dip into the fountain of all cumulative knowledge. Consider this man’s joy at discovering that one day any average human being could easily learn more in 5 minutes than people of his era could hope to learn through a lifetime of vigorous study. Imagine this primitive man’s rapture as he logically assumes that people in the future, due to this marvelous tool that can teach them literally anything in a split second, will achieve a level of inconceivable brilliance and wisdom.
And now realize how right he should be in that assumption — but how wrong he actually is. Modern man has taken this tool with the potential to redefine our existence and broaden our understanding and has instead used it to watch cat videos and download porn. Imagine if the Spanish actually located the Fountain of Youth and then immediately decided to turn it into a toilet. That’s essentially what we’ve done. Only it’s worse. We drank from the Fountain of Knowledge and became dumber.
Ok, I’m prompted to say all of this because I just got an email from a guy who apparently took exception to me recently referring to Egyptian Muslim militants as “backwards”. Americans, he insisted, are the real backwards people because America is historically responsible for most of the evil in the world including, he explained, “inventing slavery”. Yes, America created the institution of slavery.
Case in point. Exhibit A. The ancient man (who probably either owns slaves or is one) is shaking his head in disbelief.