Rather than amplifying intelligence, I think the Internet and TV are taking the place of intelligence. Because information is available in instants, you don’t have to actually learn things, to commit them to memory and have them become a part of your own thinking processes. A great deal of the time, for too many of us, we don’t even have to THINK. We become less practiced at it. We become lazy data-tourists rather than farmers of knowledge.
Of course we don’t ALL become less practiced at thinking, at working to understand the world around us. But a significant number do. This is bad because, socially, the thing is a lot like vaccinations and herd immunity: The more kids who are vaccinated in any population, the less chance of the target disease catching on in that population.
If you have a population of 100 kids in a school, but only 10 of them are vaccinated, the chance of whooping cough sailing in and hitting every kid — except the few vaccinated — is very high. If 90 of those kids are vaccinated, you have a much lower chance of any kid — even the unvaccinated — catching it.
Just so, the more people in a group who are educated and thoughtful and rational — the more who learn to THINK — the greater the herd immunity against stupidity.
A conspiratorial idea might flow out of Fox News and catch on with one person, but other people in the same family, or school, or neighborhood, will shut it down with educated arguments. Rather than stupidity or paranoia catching on and raging out of control, the intellectual herd immunity will protect even those who are NOT educated and thoughtful.
The Internet makes it easy, not only to not think, but to become exposed to mind-pathogens — the wild ideas, conspiracy theories, hate memes and violent sectarian rants — that infect us with damaging craziness. And in this case, the epidemic is panic, unthinking followership, mob action.
I like the idea of education as a vaccination against stupidity, and even more that widely-available education, training in reason and thinking, provides herd immunity against craziness and stupidity.
But I worry that our intellectual herd immunity — likely due to the bullshit commonality of so much of the Internet — is dangerously low.
Rather than intelligence and thoughtfulness, we seem to be amplifying pugnacity, stupidity and rage.