Posts Tagged ‘critical thinking’

Outsourcing Critical Thinking

September 13th, 2023 No comments

Recently, I had the misfortune of dunking my mobile phone into a lake.  Not on purpose of course; the phone was in the pocket of my swim trunks and I’d forgotten that it was there when I waded into the water.  I’m sure I’m not alone in having these kinds of mishaps with their cell-phones.  The aggravating part is not so much the moisture permeating the phone and causing it to not work.  It was the reality that without access to the information and features on the phone, I was somewhat handicapped from doing everyday things that I’d taken for granted.

Who amongst us can easily recall the actual telephone numbers or co-ordinates of our regular contacts….much less casual friends or especially of business contacts? We’ve all programmed the phones to access them via voice or key strokes.  What about access to doors whereby we wave our phones over a Bluetooth sensor?   Don’t forget the most important function of all phones these days and which is responsible for their high cost….the camera.  Once that’s out of commission, our everyday shortcut for recording events is no longer available.  Of course, without camera phones, how does one eat food or take vacations? Girls would be helpless. It’s like the old chestnut about preventing an Italian from driving by breaking his middle finger.

Our dependence on such devices has been such that people are more anxious without their phones than they are about almost anything else.  That’s rather frightening to think that our lives are tethered to a 3 by 5 piece of plastic and silicon. This transition has been gradual, so gradual that we’ve failed to notice our increasing dependency on our phones.  Like all consumer items, the hook is convenience.  Who doesn’t want more convenience?  The issue with convenience is that our minds naturally ignore the processes involved in finding a solution and we become dependent on ‘things’ or others for decisions.  Once routine things are taken care of, we presumably turn our mental efforts to more worthwhile things.

Except that this doesn’t happen. If anything, we are likely to become lazier.  Why go through the trouble of researching anything in depth when by merely clicking a few keys, a ‘source’ will provide the information for us.  The onset of Artificial Intelligence will only make this worse.  We have as a society, offloaded lots of our critical thinking to sources that make our minds up for us.  The advent of the phenomenon of social media has created an entirely malleable generation of people whose opinions are shaped by prolific posters.  The veracity of this claim is proven by the amount of money that corporations are willing to throw at ‘influencers’, in order to shape views and opinions and of course, hawk goods.

To be sure, corporate television and media still exert their influence, but distrust of them has grown so much that few take any media utterances seriously any more.  They have collectively become America’s version of Pravda or Xinhua. For those that have outsourced their critical thinking of major issues to media, their ability to grasp simple realities withers and suddenly their ability to logically assess situations disappears.  They may have positions which they parrot on any given issue, but not the ability to defend them critically.

The real wake-up call for people is that people whom have been relied upon to provide rational responses and opinions have been outed as being utterly incompetent or incapable of rendering any views at all.  They are like a virus; their stupidity has the ability to infect untold naïve minds.  For example, recently, a politician offered an idea to fight rampant crime in her famously violent city of Chicago.  Her brainstorm: ask gangs to only shoot people at night.

In a previous post, I postulated that a school child will tell you that 2 plus 2 equals 4; not so much because they can prove it, but mostly because the teacher told them it was so.  It’s a rather frightening thing to agree to a set of beliefs just because it’s convenient to agree with everyone else.