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Trouble With My Calculus Homework

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“…it was many years before I found out if the Nazis captured them,” Chris said.

“What are you talking about?”

The von Trapp family! I watched it whenever it came on, but I was sent to bed before I could see the end.”

“I never had that problem. The three TV channels in my Alaska hometown didn’t show The Sound of Music as far as I know.”

“Our daughter Veronica won’t have that problem either, not since the days of Tivo.”

But I do remember being sent to bed before a TV show was done. It was a heartbreak; I would lie in bed wondering what might happen until I eventually fell asleep. There are so many changes with TV now that I really wonder how one-year-old Veronica will understand the medium.

Imagine, a hundred years ago when radio was taking off, what those people might think of our world now. The change created by radio transformed the world! Voices, instant information, storytelling and news as it happened were available for the first time to almost everyone. If we could tell them and have them comprehend the media onslaught available now, they would surely think we would be the most informed and fabulously educated people of all time.

Surely the thousands of channels would be full of the great literature and history the human race has created! All the books and Internet pages would explain every scientific mystery that has confounded us.

I remember as a child finding a reprint Superman comic from the 40s. It was a flashback to Krypton, and the people of Krypton were discussing their ordinary lives. One mother was telling a Kryptonian father that he should help his 11-year-old son with his calculus homework. I was properly dumbfounded that a kid not much older than I was would be learning a kind of math that I would probably never even see. That was the vision. A super society would be so well educated!

We can laugh at that utopian idealism now. No, we can’t fly with jetpacks yet, and we do not all learn calculus in fifth grade. We watch reality TV shows. When we see a link on the Internet that tells us “7 things to think twice about before doing,” we click on it to find out things we already know.

I’ve said before that the Internet is killing computers. Computers were supposed to be this great thing that would solve all our problems and send us past the farthest corners of the universe. But now a computer has turned into a circus mirror that gives us a bizarre reflection of our self and inspires increasing narcissism. Also, the lines between technologies are blurring more and more. My television connects to the Internet and so does my phone. Home security systems have cameras that let working parents peek in on their kids to see if they are in fact where they say they are. Everything has a computer in it and it’s all turned in on the great big SELF.

A rising Internet meme, though, is about Web 2.0. The web has become very much a buffet of all you can consume, but if you are willing, it will still help you get work done. You can be a prosumer—producer/consumer—using the information and platform provided by the web to add to the world instead of passively sucking what other people create.

Things have changed; we don’t interact with technology and media the way we used to. Chris didn’t find out what happened to the Von Trapps, but it would be a cruel trick to have Veronica experience the movie without the end. The technology has changed, and we should also change the way we engage with it.

The great big example of this is Wikipedia. A big group of people came together and made this fabulous encyclopedia that can be constantly updated by the people who care the most about a particular topic.

Merlin Mann and Seth Godin talk about just doing something. Even if it’s as simple as sharing an interesting link on Twitter—it is worthwhile. You are spreading something, getting the word out about what you find important. If we are, like the Supermen of Krypton, to learn impressive knowledge disciplines at a young age, we have to do it because we love it. When you want to learn something, you can.

Like any technology, the web and TV and phones aren’t bad. It’s just how we use them. Our time and attention are very limited. I want to leverage the moments I have to make the world a better place. Mostly I want to make it a better place for me. And I’m a lot happier if I am doing something I think is worthwhile.

So, if we kept at it, we might be able to start working on that jet pack. We just have to push away from the trivia and start creating.

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About Murphy

  • Jon Sobel

    Well said, Murph. Just one thing: the jetpack cliche should be retired – we’ve got ’em. Just Google Martin jetpack.

  • Murphy

    True that, Jon. The jetpack cliche was tired even before it got retired by reality. Dreams of jetpacks are _so_ 20th century…I’m waiting for a car that drives itself and a surgically implanted computer network interface–Neuromancer-style

    I guess I’ll just keep checking my Yahoo homepage until they tell me it’s been invented.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I guess I’m still a fan of the internet because I have used it to find lots of bands that I could never have found through a brick & mortar shop. I’ve gotten more acquainted with Linux – by using Ubuntu and building a LAMP server with a Drupal GUI – instead of just relying on Microsoft(*Ugh* remember Windows 98?).
    I’ve discussed all sorts of great topics with people all around the world (like this one) and I have even expanded my knowledge of Science,Quantum Physics, with the abundance of information that I would have had to go to a University for before the internet. Yes, Libraries have been behind the times for quite some time now!

    So, it’s rather unfortunate that you & a majority of people see it as a computer killer or an e-Wasteland of sorts. I guess it’s kind of like Money, you can see it as a destination or you can use it like a tool to further your intelligence & adventures in Life….

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Oh… By the way, Murph, they do have cars that can park themselves (parallel as well)

  • Murphy

    Psst…Brian aka Guppusmximus (can I call you gup?) the second page.

    I find your use of the internet is exactly the sort of thing we should be using it for. Bravo!

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *Oops* and I have also used it to promote my musical meanderings:


    October Arrest

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Yes, I did read the second page but I felt that your overall mindset / concern far outweighed the solutions you presented. Plus, I felt that too many people would easily agree as this sentiment has been stated before on BC.