During the ‘Google’ debate in class, the positive effect side of the argument brought forth the issue of historical societal concerns which appear to mimic the contemporary debate about the infusion of electronics into modern global-culture lifestyles. They used these previously debunked issues as hysterics, even out of the mouths of such as Plato. How the world would have been different if only we had followed the good-intentioned but foolish advice of these prophets of doom and catastrophe. The ‘enlightenment’ is evident for all to clearly see if only they were to avail themselves of the historical facts presented.
One must first analyze the accuracy of the historical ‘fact’ and then if it passes the litmus test, determine whether it is compatible as a valid measuring stick to the current situation. When we exam the issue of the printing press and especially the Gutenberg press innovations, we can find historical information (late 1400s – early 1500s) which indicates that some scholars of that immediate era were writing of concerns about how mass distribution of the written text would effect European society. But most of the academicians of that time frame were either part of the church or had been educated by the church and there was a underlining issue of destroying the intellectual hegemony that the Catholic Church enjoyed at this time.
So this begs the question, were the arguments speculated then based upon a real thought of turning society on its ear due to technology run amok or were they based upon the perceived social upheaval brought about by better education for the common people? This again can be seen as having a parallel with the ‘Google’ debate unless we are looking at a difference in magnitude as the core of the effect. What if the manifestations of overindulgence into the electronic world of communication, information, recreation, entertainment, and finally human satiation taking place in the ethereal world are to our great discredit? What if we become hollow shells of our former glory and find that we are incapable of singular achievement? What if, rather than the panacea of the future, Google and its electronic ilk are the precursor of an unstoppable societal urge for living cocooned away from real-life? What if this is the beginning of human efforts to seal themselves off from the threats that engaging in traditional manners of interaction bring? How long before machines fight our battles, calculate most mathematical answers, predict the weather, manufacture our commodities, and eventually nurse our offspring? Wait a minute, we are almost there!
Many a good science fiction story is based upon the human frailty (read flaw) of wishing someone or something else had to do the dirty work so we invented machines which could perform like subservient humans. There are important lessons to be learned about possible/probable futures from those who specialize in delving into those possibilities.