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Monday, September 12, 2011


by jpaul (bio)
“Don’t Do Evil” claims Google. While good-intentioned at times, Google is unknowingly changing the way we learn and impacting how we study the gospel, which may not always be for our good. I include Apple in this same sinister group, with their deceptively cute iPads and iPods, which are inadvertently leading us down a dangerous path. Take a minute to STOP and reexamine how these technologies have impacted spiritual growth in your own life.

At church this week, look around your Gospel Doctrine class and count the number of ipad/ipod users. As full disclosure, I am one of these people, as are most of you. Do we understand the full impact of relying on our portable devices because of their ease and convenience … is there a trade-off perhaps? Most people are eager to discuss the obvious benefits; not having to lug scriptures to church, quick reference to multiple manuals, and (shh) even access to email when things get dull. I have yet to hear anyone comment on how studying the scriptures on their i-device actually increases their ability to understand the scriptures and draw closer to the spirit.

The convenience and access to materials in undeniable, but we have traded the ability to truly ponder the words of Christ and to take notes on the spiritual impressions we’ve received. There is value in highlighting meaningful verses and underlining key words that we can flip back to later and recall how these words touched us in the past. There may be apps out there that allow you to take notes on e-scriptures, but I am decent with tech and I haven’t seen one or seen anyone else use one. Can you think of the last time you sat down at a desk with a pen, paper and scriptures and truly feasted on the words? Lying in bed, reading on the bus, or listening through iTunes may not be a complete substitute.

What compounds this problem is that search has become so amazing; we really don’t need to memorize information anymore. The term “Google Effect” was recently coined by Columbia University researchers after studying the effect that the search engine has on the way people think. To summarize one of the experiments; participants were told to input trivia into a computer. Those who were told that the information would be erased afterwards were significantly more likely to remember what they had written. Our brains are learning to not store information that we subconsciously know we have quick access to, which will soon be just about everything. We will all be great finders and poor thinkers.

It is an amazing blessing to have an enormous amount of data at our fingertips, I can’t argue that, but I question whether we will “treasure up in our minds continually the words of life” (D&C 84:85) when we know we can access the same words of life effortlessly on our phone. Is knowing where to find important doctrine the same as having “the words of life on the fleshy tablets of the heart”? (2 Corinthians 3:3)

Or, am I crazy and is our symbiotic relationship with technology the next phase of evolution? When Einstein was asked for his phone number, he reached for the phone book. His response? "Why should I memorize something I can so easily get from a book?" He claimed that he never memorized anything which could be looked up in less than two minutes.

Do you agree with Einstein? I don’t believe I do …

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