A new technology was popularized 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece: writing and reading. The philosopher Plato was worried about the damage if information was kept in libraries instead of the minds of students, who would not exercise their memories and would simply forget what they had learned. The transmission of knowledge to external written symbols would create the illusion of wisdom but not true wisdom, wrote Plato, influenced by his teacher Socrates.
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But accumulated experience has shown that Plato was wrong. Writing and reading did not deplete the human spirit, but empowered it. They were the basis for each reader's intellectual development, and for transmitting knowledge between cultures, languages and generations. "Book learning" became synonymous with education and wisdom, an canonical books, first and foremost the Bible, became the foundation of culture.
Modern research has shown that reading sharpens the memory and ensures the accumulation of knowledge. Children who read the Harry Potter books can answer any question on the subject, while children who only see the movies fail that test. Other research has discovered that reading orders the reader's image of the world; subjects who did not know how to read had difficulty making even the simplest generalizations.
The 21st century has been characterized by a new technology, the Internet, which presents an opportunity and a challenge to reading's future. Because of the Internet, many more people read and write than ever before - in e-mails and blogs, on social networks and chat forums. At the same time, the multiplicity of messages and media choices makes reading long texts harder than before, leading to summarizations and brevity. New items like the Tablet and electronic readers are gradually moving books from print to digital format.
But the changes in reading habits, and even the physical appearance of books, need not and cannot change the most basic thing: Even in the Internet age, there is no substitute for books. Reading is still the most effective way, and of course the most enjoyable way, to gain knowledge, remember the past and experience worlds near and far, real and imaginary.
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