Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Age of Mass Intelligence

Some people say that the Internet is making us all a bunch of dullards. Others claim that is producing a master race of freakish geniuses. What if the truth lies somewhere in the middle? Jon Parker points to a sharp increase in people [in Britain] going to the opera, reading challenging novels, and seeking out activities that are intellectually and culturally stimulating, to suggest there's been a growth of ''mass intelligence''. Parker
Surely both things are happening at once: part of the population is dumbing down, part is wising up. But something has changed. H.L. Mencken, the so-called sage of Baltimore, said: “No one in this world...has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.” A growing number of people are proving him wrong.

I suspect that there are lots of people using the net to discover things that stimulate their brains. But how to hook up with them in the real world? Lately, I've been wondering if it wouldn't be worthwhile to share my work digging into the history of western civilization on the net. My problem is that I share it only with a few professors, and undergrads who are generally non-plussed. Surely, there must be people out there who are interested in these things.

The problem, in my mind, and it's discussed in the article, is that the net is best for a certain kind of communication, rather like broadcasting, in which you get to the damn point quickly. But the sort of study I like is the direct opposite of that- it's long and difficult and hard to tell where it ends. I'm just now starting to understand what Wittgenstein meant in his Tractatus... and I've been working on that thing for about three months now! And, you know, that wasn't thrilling to read about here, I'm guessing. This stuff is not immediately exciting, I'm not brilliant, and more often than not it's very frustrating. But, I love it to the point of bursting. Glad to see this sort of love blooming in the digital age.

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