Copy Paste

Articles, General - Dr. İzel Levi Coşkun - September 4, 2015

My observation is that day by day we are becoming increasingly inclined to copy and paste everything. Has this all started with the intense use of the internet or the “copy” and “paste” options created in Microsoft Word? I don’t think so. This is only one particular version of this copy-paste phenomenon anyway. There are other versions too but let me start with this one.

Do we have an assignment or job to complete? The first address to go to is “Google”. We put the keywords in quotation marks. There it is. We start reading. Ok, this paragraph will be useful, let me copy this to a word document. Ctrl C + Ctrl V. Let me look at this other website. Well, this paragraph is not bad either. Ctrl C + Ctrl V. If I can find one or two more paragraphs it will be done. If I change a couple of phrases to put them in my own words and adjust the format, my document will be ready for use. Total time spent=sufficiently short. Added Value Created=generally close to 0. Time allocated to thinking and interpreting = Added Value + 1.

Well then, what happens when we cannot find anything to copy and paste? I have observed that in such cases people generally tend to get in a quandary. Occasionally I see this happening to my students.

This possibility is increasingly diminishing though because the chances of accessing all kinds of correct and incorrect information on the Internet are high. The subtlety here is that instead of troubling themselves by thinking about the information they have accessed or forming opinions about it, people prefer to copy the information word for word without checking whether or not it is correct or useable, which leads to the formation of prototype approaches, memorised answers and standard interpretations that are far from being creative. Such easy ways out, which lack any aspect of reflection, further lead to the creation of minds with abundant but empty ideas and therefore individuals who seem to know everything about everything, which is all in stark contrast to late Uğur Mumcu’s words: “One cannot have an opinion unless one has knowledge”.

Years ago I had read a story. Although I have tried really hard, I cannot, unfortunately, remember the name of the story nor who it was written by. Maybe friends who read this part about that story now will know and tell me who it was by.

As the story goes, someone who travels into the future is fascinated by the level of technology humankind has reached. Life has become very simple; everything is automatic and people can get whatever they want without any effort. The human brain has also evolved throughout all those years and has grown: grown to be bigger than our traveller’s. However our traveller notices that those humans lack a very fundamental thing. Those humans, with advanced technological facilities and a high brain capacity, have forgotten how to think.

Very dramatic, isn’t it? Are we travelling down that road? I am not one hundred percent sure of that but before I begin talking about another version of ‘copying and pasting’ I would like to take the liberty to note that “not being different” is at least as pertinent as “not thinking” at this unfortunate point in our journey from the “I think therefore I am” of 350 years ago to “I think therefore I am accused(1)” of today.

Let me continue with a summary of another story. This one is called “When Waters Changed”, a story attributed to the Egyptian Sufi Dhu-l Nun(2).

Once upon a time Prophet Moses’ mentor Khidr calls upon humankind with a warning and tells them that on a certain day all the water in the world will be changed and those who drink this renewed water will lose their sanity. Only one man listens to his advice and he begins to collect water in a safe place. Soon streams stop running and wells go dry. The man who collected water drinks his own water. When streams start running again he joins the rest of the people. He soon realises that these people have no memory of the past, of what had happened. He sees that they talk in an entirely different way from before and that because they cannot communicate with him they treat him as if he is mad. At first he retreats and continues to drink his own water but in the end he drinks the water everyone else is drinking because he cannot bear thinking differently from them all and the loneliness this brings. He forgets the past and becomes like everybody else. Those who see him like this think that he is a madman who has miraculously gained his sanity.

This story takes us to another version of “copy-paste”. It is different in the sense that what we are copying here is not texts but people, albeit following the same basic principle of copying. It does not really matter whether it is business life or private life. We “copy-paste” certain role models that we have created in our mind; we “copy-paste” the way they walk, talk, dress. We copy what these role models do. When we look around it is as if they are everywhere. We stop being ourselves and try to be like the people we see on the television, people we read about in newspapers and magazines. Just like the way we adapt to(3) and accept what is generally accepted: without interpreting it, working on it, adding anything to it or feeling moved to undertake any research about it.

Perhaps the most dangerous thing of it all is that we cast aside self and commonsense when we copy and take sides with the “strong one” rather than the “rightful one”. This choice, which we often make with the aim of ensuring self-security, leads to unwitting self-imprisonment. Unfortunately once you have drunk that water it is hard to go back.

Within this context, my main question is as follows: Who is freer? The lonesome mad who continue to think, or those who helplessly go with the flow?

İzel Levi Coşkun

(3) Bkz : Adaptasyon ve Zeka


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