Would Socrates Use the Internet?
I don’t think there is any arguing that the internet has changed everything about us. I remember my first experiences with the internet was sending and receiving email. Having already learned how to type while attending a relatively advanced elementary school in Garland, Texas, I also used Word for my prose. Those good old days were all happening in the late 90s. It is staggering to think how far we’ve come in the myriad ways the internet has impacted our lives.
Being a Classics major, I had a lot of time to study Socrates depicted by Plato. That is, Socrates didn’t write at all so everything we know about him was passed down by other authors, though mainly Plato. Socrates thought and relied solely on his memory when entering debates with other interlocutors.
It wasn’t just Socrates who used his memory to the fullest. Marcus Tullius Cicero, about three hundred years after Socrates, was part of the era where if you were educated that implied you knew how to speak and write in Latin, of course—his native language—and Greek, Socrates’ language. He knew Greek well. Even more, it was the status quo in the 16th and 17th century—if you were noble, affluent, or at least expecting to be considered educated—to know how to write in Latin. Issac Newton wrote his magnum opus, Principia Mathematica, entirely in Latin. Coming from a guy who was defining what gravity was to the human race is not bad. Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Hegel who wrote the Critique of Pure Reason and Phenomenology of Spirit, respectively, wrote eloquent Latin. And there are many more, these are just some of my favorites.
The point I’m making is that the immediacy of the internet dissuades us from using our memories. Why remember anything when I can go to Wikipedia for some fact or ask Google’s search engine “how do I make Bulgarian Goulash,” which by the way gives 1.5 million results.
Our identities are more and more merging into social internet networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. I have so many friends “out there” that I’ve never even met, but definitely feel a bond with. I feel the need to increase my internet friends, followers, circles, connections, etc. so I don’t look like a loser among my peers, visitors, potential employers, and all others. I know, ideally I should be like these numbers and metrics are meaningless and could never define me because “I know who I am!” But what can I say, I am human who’s affected by these numbers, in fact, I believe it’s affecting more people every day. What we are, as people, is becoming more linked to our representation over the WWW.