The mariner wants to believe that in the distant future knowledge about all things will be available instantly – so that the wisest decisions about life, religion, politics, health, philosophy, science, music, sociology, mathematics, and the world of all arts, will contribute to a better experience for all humanity.
However, for at least the next one hundred years, he has a decreasing belief that knowledge will be important to the person on the street. Many situations raise doubt:
Allowing governments and corporations to think “for” the reader. Personal preferences – not only credit card and banking data but presumptive knowledge about what we will wear, buy, move, die, marry, even when we will divorce – all are in databases owned by others who will leverage that knowledge to limit a reader’s personal choices. Already Google, Microsoft, Amazon.com and most online retailers shape what the reader sees, reducing the reader’s free choice to make informed decisions. Google reads your email to improve product placement.
The government no longer depends on any reader’s unique, single vote. The reader is a quantifiable entity, a mark on a standard deviation table, a phone number. The reader is grouped into a set of opinions that will be dealt with by targeted advertising and speech making all the while passing legislation that will never be vetted by the public.
The public is sated by the easy life. That is the message promoted by those who will own the reader. Who wants to read books? Who wants to dig underneath the surface to see why governments and corporations hide their intent? It takes time and intellectual energy to learn things one is not supposed to know.
Perhaps The Matrix is more revealing about future deception through intellectual repression. The reader unknowingly will lose free will. The mariner sees no urgency on the part of the government to repair the education system that has dropped the nation to twenty-seventh on the list of most educated countries. Knowledge is not as important as greed and power.
Libraries are under duress to find a new role that replaces the old one of rich collections of literature, science, and meaningful fiction. Today, many folks go to libraries to play Internet games (or as the mariner has witnessed, look for jobs). The desire to enrich one’s knowledge of reality or informative fiction is failing – easier to pick from Netflix.
True, there are many who are devoted to their calling, many which will excel in their field. The many are becoming the few. Turn on the Kindle. Highly trained fields often are controlled to keep the demand and expense high for those who leverage education (think medical doctors, sport coaches, CEO’s and tenured professors).
Something has happened to natural inquisitiveness. Do children still look for salamanders or collect tree leaves, spend a part of each day reading, experiment with how the world and its people work? Do adults maintain an informed consciousness about prices, inflation, value for the dollar spent or the dollar saved? Do adults know that salaries have not risen since Reagan while profits have climbed far beyond expectations?