Our digital world is changing the way we read and the way we learn.
Until before the age of the internet and the e-book, we learned much of what we know from books. But things have changed. And I fear that in the age of the super-information-highway and our need to find the quickest way to get things done, we may not be allowing ourselves enough time to process information and properly gain knowledge.
I say this in light of an article in the New York Times. It mentions an ambitious start-up called Citia. Citia’s goal is to turn a nonfiction book into smaller chunks of information, perhaps believing these to be more easily digestible in terms of time. And they may be right, if our goal is in fact to save time.
However I fear that our constant desire to do things in less and less time is causing us to lose sight of the larger picture. On the whole, technology not only allows us to do things faster (think microwave ovens, washer machines and dryers) freeing us up for more important tasks, it also allows us to be lazy. With the invention of calculators we didn’t need to know as much math. In fact think of cashiers today and their need for basic addition and subtraction skills. The point is, they require none. Their sophisticated cash register and bar code reader does everything for them.
In our world today we’re constantly looking for the better deal. Pay less for more. But we’re forgetting that the things that are most worth having are also worth investing in. Seth Godin has said “the myth of the overnight success is just that, a myth.” You can’t just become successful at something overnight. If you want something, be prepared to work hard for it. This includes knowledge.
Digitial cue cards will save us time. But we can’t expect them to make us smart. For that, there are no short cuts. If you want to learn something and really know it, learn. Read, write and engage in conversation. Think about how we teach in our universities. I am of course not saying that one needs to go to university to gain knowledge and understanding. I am saying that we need to read books. We need to understand the entire thought process behind an idea. We need to be able to analyze it in depth. And for this we still need books.
So read. Whether it be hardback, paperback or e-book. But read. Because we need a generation of people who know.