Is Socrates Right?

Socrates said to Plato about reading:>”This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”So, is he right? Are innovations like [Amazon](http://amazon.com), [the iPhone](http://apple.com/iphone), [Google Books](http://books.google.com) and other [mashups of modern hardware and software](http://www.pcworld.com/article/159067/google_makes_iphone_the_new_ebook_reade… with classic content reducing our intellects to the *semblance of truth* as opposed to the attainment of genuine wisdom?Remember…David Allen of *Getting Things Done* fame chides one for using your brain as a “trusted system,” admonishing one to export, download, and contain your data anywhere besides your noggin, because your brain is NOT capable of keeping up. So, put that in your marble pipe and smoke it, Socrates.Really, we have [Gutenberg](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg) to blame, not Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos. Gutenberg’s contribution to society was the ultimate liberator. It began the toppling of the pseudo-theocracies of the time, or whatever you call a governing body ruling strictly on the basis of having more cumulative knowledge than the masses. Wait…that’s ANY tyrannical governing body.Regardless, the printing press ushered in an era of “privacy” and individualism where one could “hole up” with a good book and engage ideas without the intervention or guidance of others. They could decide for themselves what they thought or felt about a subject. Of course, that’s a transactional occurrence. The “deposit” into individualism was made by a “withdrawal” from public and communal life activities: public storytelling, theater, speeches, etc. Considering that we STILL have public performance in many shapes and forms today, *and* have the added bonus of being able to REVIEW the text of these performances (that used to be exclusively “you had to be there” situations), it seems to me that Gutenberg’s printing press was a non-zero-sum, win-win, invention and contribution to society. And for years I’ve thought that the public domain collection at [Gutenberg.org](http://www.gutenberg.org) was fantastic and I have wanted a better way to access it than trying to read it on my computer screen or print it myself. Finally the hardware/software has caught up. So, maybe Socrates couldn’t envision an Amazon Kindle, let alone a Barnes and Noble. And that’s okay, he had bigger fish to fry. One more Gutenberg observation, I’ve heard it claimed that it was the printing press that was the second coming of Jesus Christ, because suddenly, the *Word of God* was available to any and all, not just the elite and educated. The theory maintains that because Jesus was the “Word made flesh” that the availability of the printed Bible constituted his anticipated second-coming. Not sure about that, but being able to READ such crazy theories is always enjoyable and entertaining. I’d argue that *reading* these thoughts is more mentally stimulating, in comparison to hearing someone rant extemporaneously about it. But what do I know…by typing my opinions, I’m using the very *medium* in question. Although the [printed page is getting more and more pressure](http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2009/05/eighteen-challenges-in-contemp…, Johannes paved the way for us to come up with a better mouse trap. So, does the mouse trap make our lives better or is Socrates right? Does it matter to our gray matter? Or is it GREY matter? I don’t know…I’ll have to look it up on my smartphone.

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