Doctor Science Knows

Monday, June 07, 2010

Socrates and the Internet; Immigration

At Crooked Timber, John Quiggin wrote on the Internet and our brains. I commented:

Socrates also IIRC was cranky about those young whippersnappers who think they can understand something by *reading* it, instead of memorizing it and actually holding in their heads where understanding happens. And if you base your knowledge on what you *read*, then of course you can flit from book to book, without the true discipline and concentration needed to study in an oral tradition.

Socrates was right, of course. If wisdom is based on what is in your head, then reading is pseudo-wisdom, a cheat. I prefer to think of it as off-site storage, and that reading is a way to access lots of information and ideas without having to keep them on-site. The Internet does the exact same thing, but it pumps the process up another couple of orders of magnitude.

I used to say that Aristotle was undoubtably smarter than I, but I plus the Columbia Encyclopedia know more than Aristotle. Today, I plus Wikipedia know *way* more than that, but the essential process is the same.

If you want to talk about how the Internet is changing the way we think, first look at how literacy changed the way people think.

At Obsidian Wings, von wrote about a Rasmussen poll on birthright citizenship. I commented:

russell nails it:
There are industries in this country that would be unsustainable as they are currently organized without cheap illegal labor.
What is interesting is how Rasmussen -- which is only an "allegedly legitimate public polling organization", not an actually legitimate one -- does not ask anything about those illegal industries. This poll, and the whole debate over "anchor babies" etc, are a way to let people express their anxiety about immigration without thinking bad thoughts about their masters. They can direct all their energy to kicking the little guy, and not have to worry about the (more frightening and effective) effects of kicking the big guy.

It's in Freud, it's all in Freud. I hate Freud, especially when he's right.

re Jes' cartoon:

American society was created by immigrants who basically said, "we're coming, we're staying, deal with it." One reason many Americans favor open immigration is that they know their ancestors used it, and it seems churlish to say "it was ok for grandpa, but not for *you*."

Immigration to North America has also characteristically been permanent. You (where by "you" I mean e.g. my Irish great-great grandparents, my German and Swedish great-grandparents, and my Irish grandmother) don't come here to make money and then go home, where the "real" civilization is; you come to stay, not intending to go back. That's why many liberals don't want "guest worker" programs -- we want the people who work here to *want* to live here, to be committed to this society as more than a source of money.

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