• 《Is Google Making Us Stupid》——part 3 - [翻译]

    2009-11-17

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    http://www.blogbus.com/gaojuan-logs/51563487.html

    Maybe I’m just a worrywart. Just as there’s a tendency to glorify technological progress, there’s a countertendency to expect the worst of every new tool or machine. In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” They would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.” Socrates wasn’t wrong—the new technology did often have the effects he feared—but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom).

    The arrival of Gutenberg’s printing press, in the 15th century, set off another round of teeth gnashing. The Italian humanist Hieronimo Squarciafico worried that the easy availability of books would lead to intellectual laziness, making men “less studious” and weakening their minds. Others argued that cheaply printed books and broadsheets would undermine religious authority, demean the work of scholars and scribes, and spread sedition and debauchery. As New York University professor Clay Shirky notes, “Most of the arguments made against the printing press were correct, even prescient.” But, again, the doomsayers were unable to imagine the myriad blessings that the printed word would deliver.

    So, yes, you should be skeptical of my skepticism. Perhaps those who dismiss critics of the Internet as Luddites or nostalgists will be proved correct, and from our hyperactive, data-stoked minds will spring a golden age of intellectual discovery and universal wisdom. Then again, the Net isn’t the alphabet, and although it may replace the printing press, it produces something altogether different. The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking.

    If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture. In a recent essay, the playwright Richard Foreman  eloquently described what’s at stake:

    I come from a tradition of Western culture, in which the ideal (my ideal) was the complex, dense and “cathedral-like” structure of the highly educated and articulate personality—a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West. [But now] I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self—evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the “instantly available.”

    As we are drained of our “inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance,” Foreman concluded, we risk turning into “‘pancake people’—spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.”

    I’m haunted by that scene in 2001. What makes it so poignant, and so weird, is the computer’s emotional response to the disassembly of its mind: its despair as one circuit after another goes dark, its childlike pleading with the astronaut—“I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid”—and its final reversion to what can only be called a state of innocence. HAL’s outpouring of feeling contrasts with the emotionlessness that characterizes the human figures in the film, who go about their business with an almost robotic efficiency. Their thoughts and actions feel scripted, as if they’re following the steps of an algorithm. In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.

    也许我只是一个自寻烦恼的人,就像对每个新工具和新机器,有一种倾向去赞美技术进步,同时也有一种倾向去猜想它最糟糕的可能。在柏拉图《斐德若》中,苏格拉底哀叹文字的发展。他担心,“人们开始依赖书面语言替代他们曾经存储在他们头脑中的知识时,用对话中的一个人的话说,他们将停止训练他们的记忆而变得健忘。并且他们无需指引也能得到大量的信息,他们将会被认为是很有知识的人,而实际上他们中的大部分人都非常无知。他们充满了自以为是的智慧,而不是真正的智慧。”苏格拉底说得没错——新技术确实会产生他所担忧的效果——但是这是没有远见的。他没有预见读写的许多方法将会为传播信息、激励新思想、扩展人类知识(如果没有智慧)服务。

    15世纪,古登堡的印刷机的到来掀起了又一场口水之战。意大利文人主义Hieronimo斯夸尔恰菲科担心书籍的易得性导致智力懒惰,使得人们不好学,并且削弱他们的头脑。其他人认为便宜的印刷书籍和宽幅的广告将会渐渐破坏虔诚的权威,使学者和抄写员的工作贬值,而且会传播扩散不良的言论。就像纽约大学的教授克莱·肖基说的,“大部分关于反对印刷机的争论都是对的,甚至是有先见之明的。但是,再说一次,这些预示着不会想到印刷机传递出现会收到无数的祝福。”

    所以,是的,你应该对我的怀疑论报怀疑的态度。也许那些解雇像卢德派分子或者怀旧者一样的互联网评论家的人是正确的,从我们极度活跃、数据丰富的头脑中将使知识发现和全体智慧的黄金年龄的活动起来。再说,虽然网络可能取代印刷机,产生出不同的东西,但它不是字母表。一序列印刷页面的轻微深度阅读的提升不只是对我们从作者的文字中获取信息有益,而且对那些文字在我们头脑中引发的共鸣有益。通过持续、注意力集中的阅读一本书,或者通过任何其他的凝视的动作来开辟一个安静的空间,就此而言,我们使得我们自己联系起来,制定我们自己的推理和类比,培养我们自己的思想。正如玛莉安.沃夫所说的,深度阅读难以从深度思考中区分出来。

    如果我们失去了那些安静的空间,或者使它们填满了内容,我们将舍弃的重要的东西不只是我们的自我,还有我们的文化。在最近的一篇文章中,导演理查德·弗尔曼富于表现力的描述了什么是危机:

    我来自于一个有着西方文化传统的地方,在这里,高学历和鲜明的个性化——一个男人或者女人,他们自己内心所拥有的一个个人建造和对整个西方遗留物有独特视角。这个理想(我的理想)是复杂的、难懂的、教堂似的结构。(但是现在)我在我们所有人(包括我自己)当中看到了复杂的内部密度的一种新型自我的替代——包括在信息超载和即使可用的技术压力下。

    弗尔曼总结:“当我们耗尽我们的内部所有文化遗产,我们冒着转变为‘煎饼人’的危险——我们只需要按一个按钮,就能获得与巨大的网络信息联系,从而进行广而薄的传播。”

    我被《2001》里的一个场景困扰着。使得它如此深刻和如此不可思议的是计算机对它的大脑被拆散所做出的情感反应:它绝望地感觉到一条条线路相继切断而变黑,他孩子似的向宇航员请求——“我能感觉到,我能感觉到,我害怕”——并且他的最终的回归只能被称作一种原始的状态。HAL的感情流露与电影中无情感的人物进行比较,电影中的那些人几乎是用一种机器人效率进行交易。他们的思想和行为像是照本宣科的,似乎他们是按照程序一步一步的进行的。在《2001》的世界里,人们已经变得如此机器化,以致大部分人的个性几乎就转变成了一台机器。这就是库布里克的黑暗语言的本质:当我们依赖计算机去寻找我们理解世界的方法时,我们自己的智力就转化成了人工智能。

     

     

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