US President Barack Obama addressed a class of graduating students at Hampton University in Virginia recently. During his speech, he warned of the dangers that our technology-driven society puts us in as a nation. While many may complain about information overload, Obama points at more pressing underlying issues. According to AFP:
“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter,” Obama said at Hampton University, Virginia.
“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,” Obama said.
Obama seems to be concerned about the fact that technology provides us with access to a wealth of information, but a lack of education and knowledge puts us in a dangerous situation of not being able to tell fact from fiction. He mentioned Thomas Jefferson and talked about the founding father’s belief that the fate of democracy lie with the education of the masses.
“What Jefferson recognized… that in the long run, their improbable experiment — called America — wouldn’t work if its citizens were uninformed, if its citizens were apathetic, if its citizens checked out, and left democracy to those who didn’t have the best interests of all the people at heart.
“It could only work if each of us stayed informed and engaged, if we held our government accountable, if we fulfilled the obligations of citizenship.”
As Hampton University is a historically black college, Obama also touched on the disparity between the educational achievements of African Americans and other groups worldwide. He pointed to recently deceased Dorothy Height, who did not give up on her dream of a college education even as a black woman in 1929, as an inspiration in seeking education.
Our technology seems to be a double-edged sword. These tools can be used to edify and enrich your mind, but are just as useful in creating apathetic and uninformed zombies. These people either do nothing in the interest of our country, or become soldiers marching for people who don’t have the country’s interests at heart. Our access to information is very powerful, but only useful when one has the education to make sense of it all.
Do you agree with Obama here? Is our always-on access to information of all kinds dangerous to our society?
Image courtesy Hampton University on Flickr