What Emerson Knew About Google

As a rule, I don’t think of myself as an Emersonian–rather the opposite, in fact. But while I usually find myself arguing with Emerson as I read him, I find it a profitable argument to join and Emerson’s voice a spirited counterpoint to my own intellectual tendencies. That said, here’s a passage from “Self-Reliance” that jumped out at me today:

“The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle. He has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the street does not know a star in the sky. The solstice he does not observe, the equinox he knows as little; and the whole bright calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind. His note-books impair his memory; his libraries overload his wit; the insurance-office increases the number of accidents; and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; [….]”

The Internet, of course, is our almanac.

2 thoughts on “What Emerson Knew About Google

  1. Can’t help but be reminded of a quote of Gertrude Stein’s that I recently found: “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”
    Common Sense, or insight, is becoming all too rare these days, it seems.

  2. Thought provoking! I’m an avid ‘googler’ so perhaps I can’t criticize. It seems it’s too easy to google instead of asking a real person, or gaining a deep understanding through a book.

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