And came the time of social and free information

Although I have been writing for a very short time I think that even the less attentive among you will have understood that I like to frequent social networks for company and because they are an inexhaustible source of information for those like me who use them for some food for thought. The sociologists and psychologists who have made history for their respective fields of expertise, without a shadow of a doubt would have made false cards to have in their time a tool like the internet.

Just like marketing professionals, they would have certainly appreciated the dreams, aspirations, desires, values and fears of a large part of the world’s population. Because all of us, whether we want to or not, are conditioned directly or indirectly by the internet and social network trends.

To give an example, recently on a streaming platform initially created for players, I happened to recognize a word that came from Greek and that with time had been adapted to become Italian. In practice as it happened for the majority of words in my native language.

It was one of those words that nobody ever says and honestly you can live very well without knowing it. I had the impression that the streamer needed clarification on the meaning of the word she was reading and I explained the meaning. Punctually, another person came up with an explanation that clashed a bit with mine.

I copy his sentence and search for it on the most famous search engine in the world. Guess what. He had taken the explanation on the internet and what was written on the article was completely wrong. What made me think was that this man was relentlessly defending an article with wrong information that someone else had written.

The thing that is perhaps not clear to people looking for information on the internet is that search engines do not first index articles with the most reliable information but those on sites that are optimized to appear at the top of searches. The technique that these sites use is called SEO but it is not the subject of this article thank goodness.

Imagine an infinity of articles written in languages other than yours. You have a site, you take these old articles written in other languages on old sites not optimized for recent search engine algorithms, you translate them at least worse with the automatic translator, you don’t understand anything because it’s not your field and because you can’t linger too long to verify the reliability and you publish an article that claims to be the absolute truth.

Here at that precise moment, you would have done a hallucinatory damage. When books were once written (I am talking about a long time ago), they were published only and exclusively if the author was a recognized source, reliable and with many years of study behind him. No publishing house would ever dream of publishing a book by someone who was not considered authoritative in their field.

Now everyone can publish a book in electronic format without any particular expense and this makes it more difficult to find complete and reliable information. Moreover there is a big aspect that many people underestimate: “the discipline”. In the Italian language, sometimes discipline is synonymous with something inherent to teaching. Teachers are those who teach. The learners are the disciples, those who learn a discipline.

In my opinion we should not underestimate another meaning of discipline. If you find yourself reading two books that talk about the same subject but that have been written in different eras, you will immediately realize that, beyond the contents, the older ones are better written and explain the subject better despite having a much more formal and scaled down type of exposition.

I have tried in my small way to give an explanation to this objective fact. Who copies an article from the internet to make a research did not sweat to acquire that information. They have no respect for the subject matter they are dealing with and therefore neither a lasting passion nor an adequate understanding can derive from it. To give you an example, although it is clear that most medical research can be found on the internet, I would not be treated by a blogger if he is not a doctor. And hopefully neither would you.

Studying bent over books, dealing with certain circles and professionals is not something that can be replaced in any case by some article copied from some blog. Yet it seemed to me that I was witnessing the birth of real cults formed by people who are really convinced that they can interpret and understand all the information that is scattered on the internet.

There is also another aspect to consider, many people are trying to understand scientific topics on the internet as if they were dealing with topics of a humanistic nature. This way of doing, is not only related to the research that is done on the internet but it is also very widespread in reality. To give you an example, I like photography and computer science.

I don’t think I am a top but I have studied these topics in more or less depth over the years. It often happens to me that acquaintances ask me for opinions (for free of course) and then on the same subject they ask others their “version”. Leaving aside the fact that this is extremely offensive, we will instead focus on the practical part.

Informing on a subject without studying it directly, asking right and left of the opinions, makes us look like shipwrecked people who are thrown at the mercy of the waves. Normally, getting information from several sources, is undoubtedly the wisest option when reading several newspapers. This is not the case, however, when you want to understand the topic from a didactic point of view.

It is inevitable that for any human activity there are schools of thought. Many times these schools oppose each other. So how can this be done? Do you abandon technology and rely exclusively on professionals who have dedicated their lives to what they do? To tell the truth, although I realize that this answer may be unpopular, in part it is.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, technology cannot be stopped. What we can do is try to use it as a tool without falling into the usual deception of becoming its slaves. Are you not a slave to technology? Try leaving your smartphone at home for a week. Try talking to someone without looking for information such as dates, places and people on the internet. Then you will let me know the result.

A computer scientist sees computer technology as a tool even if he sometimes uses it for his own enjoyment. An economist, sees money as a tool even if sometimes he sees it as a source of prosperity. At this point I asked myself what changes from a mental point of view. The answer I gave myself is the “discipline” understood as the right time dedicated with constancy and seriousness to learn an essential part of the topics in question.

It is useless that we listen to a billion different sources if we do not have the basis to understand them. First we should make an effort to learn that particular topic and only then can we hope, in my humble opinion, to understand something when we deal with a particular type of information.

To give an example, how many of you know exactly what Keynesian economics is without looking for it on the internet? And are you really sure that by searching for it on the internet and reading the first lines of an article you will be able to know how much an economist who has dedicated his life to the subject? How many of you know for example when Alexander the Great died without searching for him on google? What could happen if from today to tomorrow the technology became unusable?

And so my friends, freedom is also physical but above all mental. You cannot be free if our mind does not draw on our memory but is based on a database of technological nature. I fear that in the future we will become more and more lazy. There are those who say that we are witnessing a progressive reduction of intelligence. A computer scientist might argue that memory and the ability to process information are two different parts. One might think that the ability to reason can be linked to an external database like a search engine.

Where do you think the information you are reading goes if not in your short-term memory? And wouldn’t it be great if we had what we need already in our long-term memory? A large amount of information to assemble and weigh in order to produce logical reasoning.

Let’s not talk about the trend to fashions. This aspect has been particularly difficult for me to analyze because I never follow fashions and I think I am a person with little influence on average. I can imagine what you are thinking at this point. In fact you might be right but the world is not in black and white. I give you another example because I have been used to explain myself in this way.

In the same streamer chat I told you about, there was a person who praised the point of view of a famous blogger who made a fortune claiming that one of the most famous books in history, actually talks about some kind of aliens. The one who then became a “fairly famous writer”, based his theories on a “literal” translation. So I explained to this person that the point of view of this “writer” did not convince me very much and of course, as I often do, I also explained to him why, using of course some examples.

Needless to say, I was immediately attacked, I was roughly told that I am obtuse, that I think I have the truth in my pocket and that I am one of those sheep who do not like it when people “think with their heads”. The judgment of this person, who is also my age, made me smile. It is not the first time that people call me arrogant and obtuse so it is clear that this judgment has never achieved the purpose for which it was given.

I started laughing for several reasons. I have learned that normally people tend to project their faults on others in a pseudo unconscious way. First of all, it seemed strange to me that a guy came out of nowhere and found the solution to all the greatest mysteries of man simply by translating a text literally. Let’s not forget that no language should ever be translated literally.

The other strange thing was certainly the predisposition of this writer during his “lectures” to extremely long introductions that in my eyes look very much like a sort of legal release, more than a preface. Yes I know preface and introduction are two different things but I am using them in a discursive way to avoid repeating myself.

The last strange thing is that I glimpsed some inconsistencies. Although the writer has stated that he does not intend to judge and that he does not have the truth in his pocket, he expresses very precise judgments and interpretations. So by “literally” translating a text, he gives his free interpretation and therefore contradicts the principle that he would understand the true meaning of those writings.

Despite this, I admit I am ignorant and therefore, instead of giving a judgment based on sympathy, I started to study the ancient languages on which those writings are based. After several months, based on what I saw with my own eyes in depth, I realized that the literal translations that were made were wrong in themselves and that it was not possible to make a literal translation anyway.

So I concluded that this man’s writings are for me the fruit of fantasy and I think he knows it very well too.

Now let’s analyze my behavior with regard to this example and relate it to what I seem to see around. First of all, I have acquired a certain information in a generic way. At this point, many stop. There are those who do not want to believe that certain source, there are those who want to believe, there are those who believe and there are those who do not believe. Why did I write “want”? Simply because many times, we are conditioned by our feelings more than by reasoning.

I would not be surprised if there are people who do not have a good relationship with this sacred text among the followers of this writer.

So I did not want to stop at my experiences, my beliefs and level of sympathy. I tried to go deeper. So I read the books of this writer, I listened to his audio books and followed his lectures on youtube channels. However, I got to a certain point where I realized that I lacked the tools for a definitive judgment and so I dedicated some of my free time of a year to study ancient languages.

I am ready to bet that very few of this writer’s followers have bothered to such an extent. How can you tell another person that he is not able to think for himself if you don’t even verify the correctness of the translations on which a thesis is based? I think it is a human characteristic to have the need for unconditional faith and it is also convenient that we all have a tendency to laziness.

This is how the so-called “fans” are born. Those who for sentimental reasons and without a reasoning that draws its roots in the in-depth study of the subject, feel tied to a specific modus operandi or faction of any kind. It is in this way that the misunderstandings are born and then the trust is lost. Over time, each faction feels the need to lie, modify, undersize or exaggerate reality in order to carry out a thesis that in that moment gives reason to its faction.

As we move forward, civilization is filled with increasingly complex concepts and there is, in my humble opinion, no way to understand a complex concept at a glance. You have to study the arguments, you have to dissect them and also try to understand the interactions because everything is connected. There is such a wide variety of subjects and arguments that I think it is a mistake to convince yourself that you know everything.

Normally, my experience leads me to trust more people who answer my questions with “depends”. Technology has connected us all and so what was once a diary in a dusty attic that no one would ever read can become a blog. What were once mental lucubrations or even brilliant intuitions, often confided only to those around us in a friendly environment, become public knowledge. And so we are ruined?

No, of course not. There is a much more productive way to use the internet and social media. A great way would be to join a Facebook math group to exchange notes or explanations of some exercises. You could search the internet “on the right sites” for statistical, scientific or humanistic information but without forgetting to always check the sources.

We will have time to overcome the distance between technology and our emotional maturity if we linger a little and if we dedicate ourselves to our passions with constancy. Any one of us can make a contribution, what changes is how we give it. We can express our thoughts in a superficial way, perhaps providing a large amount of content and we can provide our thoughts in a way that leaves a part of us to others.

Although each of us, to a certain extent, has received and will receive our own dose of disappointment, I want to hope that we are more than we sometimes believe. If “absurdly” there was a different, alien and telepathic species watching us, how could she not be fascinated by the way we communicate our feelings and ideas through mathematics, languages and art. How much we can communicate with a painting or a simple melody.

What comes to my mind to conclude this article is that the internet and social media are just tools and as such, if used correctly they can give many benefits. On the other hand, using social and internet in a very superficial way, can cause a lot of damage.

I don’t think I have given a significant amount of revelations with this article, but I hope that many of us are inclined to reflect and be careful not to be too influenced by the fashions of the moment. If the day will ever come when technology will replace reasoning, I fear that it will be the beginning of the end of our mental evolution.

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