re: Is Google Bad For Your Brain?
In Caesar's account of his campaigns in Gaul, there is a brief anthropological digression into the culture, and specifically the Druidic religion, of the Celtic tribes. For reasons, I'll get into in a moment, this is really the only literary source we have for the Druids. Among the many things Caesar describes, one thing is particularly relevant relevant to this discussion: the Druids consciously rejected literacy. Why? Because they felt that it ruined the memory. If you can just write stuff down, what incentive do you have to train your mind to retain knowledge and keep it readily accessible? Now as it turns out, this strategy has some downsides, namely once your mind is gone, i.e. you die, everything contained within it is gone as well, hence the fact that we know very very little about the Druids aside from what Caesar, who is hardly an impartial source, and some scattered archaeological evidence tell us. On the other hand, the Druids may well have been on to something, since from all accounts, the bards of the Homeric tradition, who, although from a different culture, were also operating without the benefit of literacy. The result? Homeric bards were able to perform poems nearly 16,000 lines in length, from memory (not all at once of course!). That's a LOT of knowledge to have in one's head, and utterly unthinkable in an age of Google and Wikipedia, in which we've outsourced knowledge to our machines. This isn't necessarily bad -- wikipedia doesn't forget while we do -- but it does suggest that we are losing SOMETHING, perhaps even something very important, in the process.