On technology regressing humanity?

With themes like “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” firmly in our cultural discourse, most of us who study technology see it as an advancement in human progress at the expense of individual human ability. I tend to see the ability to look up information any time as a deterrent to learning, and the ability to message anyone any time a distraction from more intimate forms of social interaction.

My good friend Mike Field, a Kurtzweilian and eternal optimist, disagrees. In his view, these traits that we are “losing” are innately desirable; therefore, we will make progress toward preserving them. If they appear to be disappearing it is only because technology has yet to progress further and bring them back. In the future, he says, we will see technology that is more integrated into our life. If our brain can download all of Wikipedia and access it in nanoseconds, we no longer have a jarring disconnect between our lack of knowledge and the internet’s plethora. If emails could be sent with a quick thought, they would be no more distracting than the current mess of thoughts in our brain.

Consider that what is most distracting about an iPhone is the 45 seconds spent taking it out of your pocket, searching for the information you need, and processing it. If that were reduced to a quick nanosecond, it would be very hard for me to conclude that Google was making anyone stupider.

What do you think? What other (scary?) prospects does this open up? Is the singularity near?

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