The Growing Gap Between Technology and Wisdom

dunce cap

Technology is both a blessing and a burden. It allows us to access people and information all across the globe and has facilitated countless opportunities that would never exist without its advancements. But this doesn’t come without setbacks. Technology is moving at an increasingly rapid pace, a pace that society is struggling to match. A quote from Isaac Asimov sums this thought up quite well, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” This truth is only made more evident every time we see the misuse of social media or turn to a search engine to do the thinking for us. There’s a growing gap between technology and wisdom. Instead of embracing our ability to do more, we’re using it as a crutch to do less. Let’s take a look at a few trends that illustrate how technological advancements have come at the price of conventional wisdom.

Social Media Faux Pas

Spelling errors, outlandish or offensive statements and superficial thoughts are accepted without a bat of an eye on social media. Even if you keep your friend list to just close contacts, you’re still bound to see examples of these faux pas in your newsfeed on a daily basis. Social media has given each of us a soapbox and a megaphone, but not the common sense for how we should use it. The wisdom and better judgment we need to develop our “social media manners” is being outpaced by technology. As a result, we see daily examples of social media faux pas, some of which can be dangerous or hurtful. For the most part, social media is like the Wild West with no rules and infinite freedom. This is both a benefit and a pitfall. It will take time to develop the wisdom to utilize this technology with decorum, and it will also take our personal desire for higher standards. What can we do right now? Take careful consideration to what we share and how we share it. Use the same manners we would use when communicating through any other medium. It may be simple advice, but it’s not common sense – yet.

Lack of Common Knowledge

“I don’t know…Google it!” This is a phrase that’s echoed all across the globe. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s being said right now in multiple different languages. This is the easiest response to any question someone might ask of you. I don’t know if the bigger issue is that we don’t know the answers to so many simple questions or if we do but are just too lazy to retrieve them from memory. We can now type faster than we can think, and this is the ultimate problem. Search engines are right at our fingertips every hour of the day. Thanks to smart phones, they’re only ever as far as our pockets or purses.  I’m just as guilty as anyone else – if I want to know the capital of a state, convert feet to meters or check my spelling, I turn to Google. What did we ever do before? We committed information to memory. Search engines are fast, reliable and easy, but they’re not a replacement for actually learning the information they provide.

Communication Erosion

I’ve discussed before how technology can both bridge a gap and build a wall. It allows us more ways than ever to communicate and gives us instant access to people across the globe. But it also provides a shield that we can hide behind and has contributed to erosion in formal, face-to-face communication. When presented with all of our options, we usually choose email over phone calls and phone calls over in-person meetings. Throw social media into the mix, and Facebook messages and Tweets have become an even less formal way to get a hold of someone. This is a fine option for a quick message to a friend, but social media is not a replacement for sharing a project proposal or soliciting someone for their business. When it comes to sharing hard news or negative feedback, it’s even more tempting to hide behind technology.  Sending a generic Linkedin message to make an introduction or breaking up with someone over text may get the message across, but it won’t earn you any respect and won’t make you any (real) friends.

With all of the information we have at our fingertips, we are the “smartest” society yet. But in exchange, we have seemed to sacrifice our wisdom and ability to think critically for ourselves. Social media doesn’t spell check our egregious grammatical errors or review our half-baked thoughts, search engines have made us lazy and smart phones have made us dumb. These are the rock bottom standards that technology accepts from us, but we can demand better. Let’s aim a little higher. With awareness and commitment, we can maintain our wisdom even with rapid technological advancements. Let’s take an active role in growing our wisdom every day with the help of technology, not despite it.

In what ways have you seen the decline of conventional wisdom because of technology? Do you rely on search engines or smart phones to complete everyday tasks? Share your thoughts and add to the discussion by commenting below!

9 thoughts on “The Growing Gap Between Technology and Wisdom

  1. Stephanie, another wonderfully written, thoughtful, and engaging article! This one sentence really says it all — “Social media doesn’t spell check our egregious grammatical errors or review our half-baked thoughts, search engines have made us lazy and smart phones have made us dumb.” Your gentle call to action, for all of us to “aim a little higher,” is well-stated. Technology has provided us with wonderful tools….let’s take the time to refine how we use them without compromising our judgment and common sense! If we make a conscious effort to do so, there is no limit to what we can accomplish, individually and collectively.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Bob! You hit the nail on the head – and eloquently summarized my thoughts exactly. Yes, technology is an excellent tool, but it won’t replace conventional wisdom to use it properly.

  2. I don’t think social media are responsible for our spelling mistakes. I think that is the fault of education systems that edutain rather than educate. And that is part of the disrespect for authority (teachers) and their need to pander to the uneducated, undeveloped opinions of children. What I do think is that we are replacing wisdom with technology, thinking our cleverness will supply all the answers. However wisdom is fading in face of the media invasion of selling power (be it items or cultural correctness) which is commercially geared.

    However I think some families will find their way through the morass and bring wisdom and principle into focus successfully.

    1. Thank you for the comment, Helen! There’s been a lot of similar sentiments to what you shared. The education systems do have a responsibility to teach us many of these skills that we now see lacking, but I know the problem is much more complex than that. I still remember from high school and college, how some kids refused and resisted education. We also need to fuel our desire to learn!

  3. This is a wonderful, well thought out piece. Well done! Although I do agree to some extent that spelling errors and grammar errors are a larger example of poor schooling and reflect more heavily upon our education systems…Wisdom, though..that is something that is grown into and taught. I think it’s a way of stating that we as parents may be or are failing our children also, if we are allowing ourselves to resort to the “Google it” comment, before sitting with our children to teach them a different way of finding information. I, personally, enjoy sitting with my children to do homework, and when I can’t “remember” how to do the math problem or so on, I have the children “teach” me. Then we are all learning, and they are surprised that they usually know more than they realize.

    1. You’re absolutely right! Some of the responsibility does fall on education and parenting. However, after a certain age, it’s on us to improve our own skills. I hope to see a new trend in social networking where people set high standards for their communication. I can hope, right?

  4. It was always like that. Some lucky people can become in certain circumstances richer or in other words find the way to reach easier life conditions. It for example provide technological developments seen today on a mass scale as individually wining lottery, deaths of rich uncles etc. – haha! However, it does not mean that such lucky people will later work harder, as having more of free time – without financial worries, toward deeper spiritual developments. I pay attention to it, because only in this ‘path’ involving human deeper/spiritual reflections the notion of WISDOM highlighted by the author is more openly/widely exposed.

    Taking about ‘wisdom’, by only using its name is empty handed (superficial). I assume that it was the author’s introduction and I am waiting for Ms. Stephanie Shirley’s elaboration about her very own interpretation, as personalized definition, of this very complex notion.

    In general, young people do not use this word often and instead focus their attention on mastering certain skills as gathering selective information. Only later they start paying more attention toward this word. There are many perspectives/paths in/toward the ‘field of wisdom’, but at the ultimate end we can assume that similar enlightenment comes. It is amazing how truly hard working and reaching top knowledge in their fields physicists/physicians/farmers/astronomers/engineers/mothers/hunters/shamans etc. can start to talk about more general ‘things’ concerning deeper aspects of human lives like: God, purposes, reasons, systems of values etc..

    The point is that the real masters in their very different and looking narrow fields often can provide simpler for ‘the masses’ interpretations of their knowledge to understand/accept. It is also striking that their conclusions about the meaning of human lives are very close/similar what somehow proves our unity with something ….. .
    So, what is your ‘life’s path’, Ms. S.S. and when did you start to think more often about the Wisdom?

    1. Thank you for this thoughtful comment! It’s a topic I do intent to explore deeper and it will take some self-reflection first. As you acknowledge that it’s a very complex word, it’s unfortunately something I don’t think I can define in a single comment. I look forward to writing about my personal definition of “wisdom” in the coming new year and maybe I’ll make it a New Year’s goal to gain a bit more as well!

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