The other day I was talking to a classmate of mine, who is studying for a master degree. We had a test and he asked me if I had brought a calculator. I said yes, but I also added that the math for this test is quite easy and we may not need a calculator, since it was just multiplying some numbers.
He looked at me and said: “Oh, but I have forgotten how to multiply numbers!” Come to think of it, though I have not forgotten how to multiply, I have forgotten how to find square root of different numbers, and there was once that I “knew” how to do that. It was before we were allowed to have calculators.
Then, some days later, I read about how Google has weakened (and stimulated) our memories.
But the important question is, is this a problem? It is interesting that a new technology can significantly change the way we think, and also the things that we think about, but does this weaken us, deteriorating our memory in a way that eventually takes away our brains’ ability to produce any creative thought?
Of course, the link above about Google should show that it is not so. Our “creativity” shifts, but it does not deteriorates.
But yet, the fact about calculators and our ability to “calculate” still seems disturbing. Is it not that math is one of our most important and fundamental abilities? To the extent that this fundamental ability comes first, even before any other natural science or knowledge?
My answer to this is, this may seem very disturbing on first glance, but when we look at it again, we see that we might have forgotten “How” to calculate square roots or to multiply (though the latter is quite disturbing under any circumstances!), but we have not forgotten “What” they mean. That is why we can save time by not calculating what is trivial, to spend on higher levels of thought and broadening the borders of our thought and knowledge. Without technology we would never have been where we are now.
P.S: This could also show why relying on technology is dangerous, but yet necessary and inevitable: Imagine suddenly we lose our cell phones. 30 years ago, there was no such a thing, and 15 years ago it might not have been a big problem. But now, who can live without them?!