As you might have noticed from the number of reviews with my moniker on them, I read a lot. As indeed my team of reviewers does. It’s a good qualification if you want to review books. When I reviewed Guy P. Harrison’s book ‘Good Thinking’ and his figure of 40% of the American population give up reading books after university education this month, I had to be a little puzzled. I’ve seen numbers bandied around before but never specifically to university graduates and it also does apply at some level to other countries as well. Was the experience of reading that bad that these people never want to see a book again?
I am, hopefully, addressing the 60% who still enjoy books and that probably extends to people who didn’t have a university education. I’m also one of those, too, I should hasten to add. Knowledge is power and I never stop reading. I suspect many of you think the same way or we’re going to be in a very exclusive club here. Saying that, this drop-off rate is even more astounding. Does the need for knowledge suddenly drop off for these graduates? Do they have that much to do that they can no longer read books? Do you remember that scene in ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ where Roy Neary explains to his son that he doesn’t need to do maths any more after graduation? That’s some 40 years ago now. If that was the prevalent attitude then in the States and then treated as a laugh of sorts then what does not reading books come under?
Even so, I think we all have to question the nature of modern education that serves getting results than enjoyment from learning. I mean, if the latter isn’t there, would this 40% have given up books? This might not mean that they don’t read. I presume they’re on the Net but getting speed bytes of information doesn’t mean they are getting any understanding, let alone re-enforcing their educational knowledge. Fiction gives room for the mind to imagine, whatever the genre. Are we breeding a growing percentage of people who have no imagination?
Looking at other statistics, I can see a lot of these people saying that they don’t have the time, forgetting Parkinson’s Law where work fits in the time available. If you want to do something enough, you’ll find the time.
As we’re a website that looks to the future, I do have to question where this lack of reading is leading. I don’t think that is going to change our reading habits. However, it is the university educated that are supposed to get the top jobs and if these come from this 40%, what kind of future are we likely to see from them? After all, the Peter Principle dictates people rise up through management by their lack of ability and incompetence in the lower positions. A lot of these people become politicians. There is also a record of like hiring like which can only exasperate this as well. It makes for a scary future if it is.
Then again, Science Fiction is about the future and we are living that technological reality. It’s the people at the top who have yet to catch up. We might be having a lot of the technology that was once the dreams but we’ve yet to have any of the scary moments yet. Maybe Science Fiction has prepared us too well. No one’s mouthed monsters at transplants or cyborgs. Even space travel has given good side benefits that no Golden Age SF writer could have dreamed of. We’ve yet to see any bad effects. Most of that comes from the people in charge far more than the technology. It’s going to happen sooner or later. Logistics says that. In the back of my head, I can’t help wonder about that 40% who don’t enjoy books as being where it’s going to go wrong. After all, you can bet they’ll be the ones who are the most likely to make the bad decisions and we’ve all seen what happens with those in Science Fiction.
So far, we’ve been lucky. Chances are that the problems won’t come from democratically based countries but those will use what’s already out there. A loose cannon is all it will take to put this world over the edge. An idiot can be and even do worse and we don’t get many SF stories with people like that in charge. At least, I don’t think we have outside of the TV show ‘Whoops! Apocalypse’, if you can remember that far back.
With the near disasters, we’ve been pretty close so far with the damage to the ozone layer, other pollutions and such, although there’s still a long way to go. The legacy from Science Fiction is seeing all the bad things that could happen that should make anyone think twice and we rarely touched on those. When people don’t have that in their heads, I don’t know about you, but we’re only a moment away from the wrong decision.
Any form of an apocalypse is based off that wrong decision. It’s more likely going to be made by that than deliberate intent. One only has to recognise that mutual assured destruction has stopped a nuclear war, regardless of who’s been in charge of the USA or Russia, let alone any of the other countries which nuclear missiles. That said, all governments make mistakes all the time and one can only help the right safeguards are in place, especially as computer systems are getting to be hacked too easily these days. Hopefully, the worse thing that can happen is good intent and not enough thought.
We live in worrying times but let’s hope there are some intelligent people out there and, hopefully, with imagination or at least people who read books.
Thank you, take care, good night and thank the Illuminatii that you enjoy reading.
Observation: Seeing the Chinese President at a UK reception with a TARDIS and dalek in the background sets an unusual image of my country. Not that they shouldn’t regale ‘Doctor Who’ but including a dalek, an example of a xenophobic species that makes the Nazis seem like children in comparison is a bit worrying.
If this was done in America, it would be the equivalent of showing an example of ‘Star Trek’ but including the Cardassians instead of Vulcans as an alien example.
Observation: In ‘Babylon 5’, when Jeffrey Sinclair took Babylon 4 into the past and was transformed into Galen so the Minbari would accept the gift of the space station, has anyone got any idea how he explained the human heliographics on all the place?
A Zen thought: Words need meaning to make sense.