Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lost knowledge

One of my friends burned herself cooking today. As we chatted online, debating ways to treat it, we eventually realized we didn't know what we were talking about, and turned to Google. It struck me how incredibly useless intelligent, educated people can be-- and how we have never had to know these things. I have a suspicion that in the past, children learned these basic things sometime before they left the home. Now though? We have adults (like myself, if I count as an adult) who have lost this knowledge. Its not a part of out basic back-of-the-brain hum at all.

Now, this knowledge isn't truly lost-- it's clearly available online, at the touch of a few buttons and clicks and search terms. But its not readily available, it isn't there in case of an emergency, and it isn't going to help you if the power or internet is out. And it isn't as if we'd stare at a burn in total confusion-- we each knew enough not to rub on a typical body lotion, full of irritants and possibly oils. But anything beyond the very basics? Just... gone.

In some part, this is surely a product of age-- the internet came about when I was still young enough that my mother would take care of my wounds, and by the time I left the house, even she was regularly using it as a refresher for recipes. So the knowledge that maybe would have normally passed to me... didn't need to. I could cook shrimp pad thai; the instructions were on the Internet! But i didn't have the intuitive sense of how to roast a chicken and veggies, or make a soup from scratch. I never learned the base elements that apply to cooking without needing a recipe-- or the base elements of cleaning a house, mending clothing, and fixing up wounds.

Of course, now I'm learning all these base elements on my own, by trial and error or instructional guide, but it still makes me wonder what's happening to our collective unconsciousness. The more information we have at our fingertips, the less we need to remember. But when we lose basic elements, it also seems like we lose some of the richness of experience, the ability to make connections and comparisons and see metaphors popping up out of daily life. But regardless of the value of remembering things we can look up, we definitely lose the ability to survive as a society after the zombie attack or Apocalypse destroys modern technology, that's for sure. And that's simply unacceptable.

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