Are human becoming less intellectual? A historic analysis of evolution of informational availability
August 14 2021 · 8 min read
Gazing over the infinite sheet of stars in the shades of innumerable galaxies, the modern renaissance man is unaware of the fact that they are scrutinizing the biggest compass in the history of the world nor does the combination of the color, shape, and texture of the mountains depicts the accessibility of minerals and other essential metals to the average eye. The ability to reason and producing meaningful results from the great randomness in the world are the chief traits that helped us to survive through the ages, even when the continuity of the species was highly improbable.
With the recent advancements in technology, some very unorthodox questions need to be answered; Are humans gradually losing the ability to inculcate, examine and experiment the readily available data and information? Would the power of knowledge and intellect be lost against the constraints of time? This article would take you through the history of informational availability, the pursuit of knowledge, and the important events in history which shaped the role of the intellect in the modern era. But first, we must introduce the more important concepts to be discussed later in the article;
Knowledge, information, and data:
To be concise, information is considered as the facts and figures about a specific object in a specific interval of time. Likewise, data is a form of information that depicts a certain numerical representation of the object. For instance, ‘’X-Y-Z city is full of waste and litter” is ‘information about the city, whilst “X-Y-Z has 200,000 tons of waste” is data (numerical information) about the waste in the city. (p.s. the intentions of the writer to make the city sound like Karachi is purely imaginary and fictional!!)
On the other hand, knowledge is the application of information after it had been inculcated, examined, and experimented to give any fruitful result. Let’s take the example of X-Y-Z city again, once have had examined and experimented on the data, only then can we get the knowledge about the possible ways to obliterate the problem.
Now, as we have introduced the important terms, we will continue with the history of informational availability to undermine the development of the intellect through the centuries.
The Dark ages:
Knowledge has always been the tool of control. The notion of “He who controls information controls knowledge and he who controls knowledge controls the world’’ is very true. Before the invention of paper by the Chinese, the most privileged people after the tribal elders were people who would bring news about the rest of the world. Many empires were very dependent on intercontinental trade and commerce as they would bring useful information about farming and weapon crafting. This information, as little as it might be, was then evaluated, experimented with, and scrutinized by knowledgeable people.
This unavailability of information can be credited with the invention of basic non-experimental sciences like philosophy and democracy, as there were no complex information and data to be evaluated. People had no better way to reason but to dialogue about principles of society and democracy. Thus begun the obsession of intellectuals to reason about the fundamental existential questions like the purpose of creation and all those other possibly unanswerable questions.
The age of paper:
The second phase of information development starts with the invention of paper and the ethnic revolution fueled by the Abrahamic faiths. Christianity and Islam were based on basic ethical principles like justice and equity. For most of the early history of these faiths, the utmost goal was to promote the faith and establish their reign in the world. This meant that as they were establishing new kingdoms, people of different cultures and customs were submerged and that resulted in an immense exchange of knowledge and information.
Up till the middle part of this era, Muslims were the chief rulers of the western, central, and southern world. Due to the immense focus on education and theology, Muslims had reached the peaks of scientific and technological advancements. Some people refer to it as the golden age of Islamic scholars. This is the period where the formation of libraries in major cities was normalized around the Muslim as well as the Christian empires. Now, people of all ethnic backgrounds had easy access to this extensive amount of information about the vast scientific fields and the use of intellect was highly appreciated by all Muslim states.
At the dawn of the century, the Catholic Church and some Muslim empires felt the loss of power and control over the general public, as more people had access to knowledge, and had started to threaten the power of the church and the mosque. Later, Muslim empires were demolished by the Mongols and the crusaders. Thus, the Catholic Church came out as the most influential autonomous ethnic institute in the world and the great crisis of knowledge, in the shape of the destruction of libraries and massacre of scientific personal by the powerful dynasties, was witnessed by the world.
The age of the printing press:
The third era of information development started with the invention of the printing press and the wheel. This is perhaps the most important stage in the development of human civilization. If information was a religion, then the printing press would be considered as its holy grail. With the help of this machine, the revolution in information accessibility begun.
Now, the religious bodies, like the Catholic Church had lost the ability to channel the flow of information. The information was available to almost every corner of the world (except for the places where the conservative Muslims ruled as they had labeled the printing press as “haram”, but at this point, they were already out of the picture). The flow of information had eventually erupted and the amount of data about sciences was so much that it had become virtually impossible to study sciences as a single subject anymore. Thus, the field of science was divided into further branches, and those branches were further divided into sub-branches.
Up till the industrial revolution, there had been no point in time in the entire history of humanity when the flow of information was just too much to be evaluated under a single lens. For tackling this problem, further sub-branches were established and the concept of a “specialist” was introduced. So, until now, the physician was someone who could cure each part of the human body, but now there’s a specialist for each major organ in the body. To depict the entire situation, imagine a patient approaches a dentist for a tooth canal. In the vision of a dentist, the patient is just an abnormal body with a decayed tooth. The dentist has no idea of how to diagnose someone with a heart problem or a mental illness (It’s time for you to reconsider if you want to be a dentist).
The age of the Internet:
The fourth era of information availability started with the introduction of the internet. By now, the seeds of specialization are sowed already and humans have started to lose the tools and skills which were not essential for their jobs and work. The internet is the worst thing that could have happened at this point concerning information processing. It is considered that world data is doubled every two years. The worst part is that the amount of fake information is increasing every day and there is no way of knowing which information is reliable and real. With this much information and data, it is humanly impossible to evaluate each and everything thing.
As of now, the modern man doesn’t portray a picture of a person with knowledge, but of a rather well-informed one. The fact of the matter is that it takes a lot of time for a knowledgeable person to evaluate, inculcate and process the raw data. Offices and businesses need people who would take less time to solve more problems. The price of technological advancements can only be paid by human ingenuity, for now at least.
Concluding the article, it is very vivid that humans are losing the ability to induce useful insight from this vast wasteland of data because of the remarkable mechanical advancements. From an evolutionary perspective, the modern era has optimized human beings to become more and more efficient animals in the race of survival. Now, it may seem that the world does not need another Shakespeare copycat or some old dude who takes ages and ages to make a painting that has, apparently, nothing special but a weird woman smiling for the first time in her entire life ( Alas da Vinci! no one loves you with your dyslexia). Anyways, the severity of this problem is foreseen by fewer and fewer people. The problem is so crucial that it can cause the formation of a new breed of sapiens with no reasoning and problem-solving skills. It’s time we raise the voice and ask ourselves, is it the end of the line….?