Be a better you, one meme at a time

If you’ve already scanned to the bottom of this to see how long it is and thought about not reading it because it seems too long, you’re the person I’m talking about (along with the rest of us).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this quote: “It will be necessary to resist the tendency to render easy that which cannot become easy without being distorted.”

Our world is trying to “render easy” everything. There is an expectation, stronger the younger the person, that technology can make everything easier. This is great—for the most part.

But there are so many things that can’t be done easily without being distorted. They all take focus and time, two things that the “render easy” trend tries to dismiss. Those that worry me most are learning, critical thinking, and social interaction, i.e., the things that make us human.

We get warm fuzzies from cute memes giving us platitudes—and nothing changes. We watch TED Talks that inspire us—and nothing changes. We click on a thumbs-up icon to “support” a friend. We abdicate to Siri the chore of “figuring it out”; someone on YouTube has to have the answer, right? We allow Google to algorithmically spoon-feed us “news” that will never force us to challenge our preconceptions.

When we surrender the work necessary to learn, to think critically, and to interact socially, we subjugate ourselves to technology.

We hear a lot of panic, most recently from Elon Musk, about artificial intelligence eclipsing human intelligence. I don’t know or care much about this (out of ignorance and apathy, perhaps), but the trend I’m objecting to in this post is making this “singularity” easier, by lowering the level of human intelligence. The dumber we are, the easier it is for computers to be smarter.

UN-HACK

How about we un-hack our lives? Instead of liking a social media post, let’s call or visit a friend. Instead of texting my teen to come upstairs, I should walk down and talk to him. Instead of listening to a podcast or an audiobook, let’s sit down and read a classic. Instead of looking it up, let’s figure it out.

I have no doubt that this “render easy” trend will continue and accelerate for the majority of the developed world. This means that the next generation of innovators, imaginers, thinkers, leaders, and inventors will come from the third world, or from those of us who reject the trend and intentionally make our lives harder in these three essential-to-our-humanity areas.

(By the way, I wrote this on a manual typewriter.) (Not true.)

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