Socrates tell us of how in the distant past the king of Egypt, Thamus, received a visit from the god Teuth, who was renowned for numerical inventions and calculations, geometry, astronomy, dice games and above all for inventing the alphabet and the written word. King Thamus, being thoughtful and distrustful, analysed and carefully considered all of Teuth’s inventions, but above all questioned that of the written word. Teuth assured the king that “this science will make the egyptians more wise and enrich their memory because this invention is a medicine for knowledge”.
King Thamus replied: “oh Teuth, a god of great intelligence, one thing is the creative grandeur of new arts, another thing is to judge how harmful or how useful they can be for who uses them. And now you, because of your benevolence toward your invented alphabet, have set forth the contrary of your true results, because it will obliviate the soul for those who learn it. They will no longer exercise their memory. Instead they will rely on the written word and no longer search within themselves, but search externally, using strange symbols. Therefore , what you have found is not a reciepe for the memory, but a reciepe to recall to the mind. You are not offering true knowledge to your pupils. Only an appearence of truth because, thanks to you, they will have notions of many things without education, and they will believe that they are gifted when truly, for the most part, they know nothing. For them it will be intollerable. With them it will be very difficult to discuss, since they are not wise but simply full of opinions”.
How actual is Thamus’s preoccupation when applied to the net. Could it be that internet is more harmful than the alphabet? Every great discovery or change calls for a period of reflection, a period of time to destroy old conventions so that new ones can enter. This sort of “computerized scale, is swinging from quality information to sciolistic and outdated information. There are many chanels that carry scientific medical data. The net is one of them. Its potential is well known, but above all it has the characteristic of supplying an enormous mass of information. How can one distinguish the large quantity of background noise in order to hear the few pure sounds?
In our specific field we have proposed a project (in the Socrates program) capable of filtering the information in order to make it available with the click of the mouse. Although we have received much esteem for our project, we have failed. It is difficult to know if it was Teuth that did not make himself clear or if it was thamus who found it unnecessary to understand. It remains that neither could slow down or stop the expansion of this innovative phenomenon. Each considered and recognized the importance of knowledge and intelligence for their people, but saw the projection towards the future in different times and methods. Today the net can be compared to a child’s mind, both containing a large degree of informative activity and large neuronic circuits. Some circuits remain because they are used frequently, others are lost to make way for resources found elsewhere. Our task must be supply the correct scientific method and the correct navigatorial route in order to gain quality to quantity, otherwise as in the words of Thamus this hypotetical child’s mind “shall have notions on many things without education” and will remain unable to answer correctly when interrogated.
Platone Opere complete 3 Biblioteca Universale Laterza 1996 pag.274