There is a sad irony in the fact that as the availability of information has exploded in the internet age, the results have not led to a coinciding age of intellectual enlightenment, but likely the opposite. We now have as many sources as we want to confirm our own beliefs and narrow world views that many don’t think twice about self-segregating themselves from the plethora of points out there. In doing so we have entered, it seems, into a stunning new age of both partisanship and anti-intellectualism, where trolling is a given (and not just on internet message boards). In America specifically, many of us are now seriously willing to use as a determining factor for who to make the “Leader of the Free World”: “Would I like to have a beer with him?”. We are a country where, while imbedded in an age where knowledge is power and education is shown to be one of the greatest determining factors of salary and therefore improving overall life-quality, a presidential candidate can call the current president a “snob” because he wants people to have some form of higher education, and the crowds cheer instead of turning to each other and saying “Is this guy fucking serious?“.

Perhaps even worse, we have become a nation where being able to be persuaded by another argument has been derisively reduced to “flip-flopping”. Meanwhile, scholars from all ranges of the political spectrum have written that one of the great things about the U.S.A. is that it functions well as a deliberative democracy, where individuals with disparate viewpoints within state and (especially) federal government come together on issues, and via debate and discussion, can agree to resolutions to give satisfactory results for the widest swath of the people that they are duty bound to serve.

Not anymore.

Instead, in this era of information overload and anti-intellectualism, both the elected and voting populations literally treat those with different opinions as the “enemy”, and us as their “victims”–engaged in combat with our own citizens and actually stating that they wish to destroy “our country” or “our way of life” (and usually never defining who “our” really is, except for coded vagaries). Is this merely a manifestation of an information age that has naturally increased in ugliness with population growth, and matched by the additional increase in forms and speed of data transmission? Or is the hyperbolic behavior allowed by the internet to blame, where the clash between anonymity and the craving of instant micro-fame turns more and more people into robots that can only be programmed with one type of software and to see one view? Perhaps a bit (or a lot) of both.

Whatever the reason, one thing that technology has “allowed” us to do is assimilate ourselves more easily with our machines. More and more we have been programmed to replace the elevated reasoning that supposedly separates humans from other species with sound bitten, drive-by political sniping we get from securely-chosen talking point sources as default argument tactics.  It appears more and more that one of the great “gifts” the electronic world has given us is an information overload which allows us to surrender–to be told what to think about something and leave it at that. That’s indoctrination, and it used to be seen as a bad thing. That’s also programming, and it’s something that’s supposed to be done to machines, not human beings. But as time moves on at an ever increasing rate, more of us are thrilled to let others tell us what to think and do, becoming intellectual robots.

Leave it to some German guys back in 1977-nearly twenty years before full public availability of the internet-to predict our transition into obedient cyborgs:

We are programmed just to do / anything you want us to……

We’re functioning automatic / and we are dancing mechanic….

Ja tvoi sluga (I’m your servant) / Ja tvoi robotnik (I’m your worker)
We are the robots

Kraftwerk – The Robots

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About the Author

Matthew Bolin

Matthew Bolin discovered popular music could be a good thing at age 13. During a field trip to a local college library, he found Rolling Stone's "100 Best Albums, 1967-1987" issue, and a great and glorious world opened up. In the years since, Rolling Stone has shrunk, but Matthew has moved up in the world, and will eventually claim his title as "America's Librarian" sometime in the next decade.

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