I read the other day that the primary European drink before the discovery of coffee was alcohol - beer and wine, which is a depressant. Caffeine is a stimulant, with benefits to the brain. Wine has antioxidants, as do, I believe, coffee and tea.
It was suggested that we have advanced somewhat since the discovery of coffee because we switched from a depressant to a stimulant. I don't know. I look at the great scholars of the middle ages, Albert the Great, Aquinas, and so many others. And I'm not so sure that we're so much brighter with our stimulant.
I've also read that it is better for our brains to use cursive writing rather than printing or typewriting, yet, looking back on history, say going back to Aristotle, did he even write? And did he use cursive or printing? What impact did writing in Greek have in comparison with writing in some modern European script?
And there are many arguments that viewing text on a computer screen as compared with viewing it in printed form on the page of a book can be detrimental to our brains, as well as viewing anything at all on a computer screen compared to "real life," real faces, landscapes, objects in natural lighting.
I have also found myself wondering if eyeglasses aren't a bad idea. What is it that causes our eyesight to go bad? Look at Ben Franklin and at an outdoorsman from the same era who didn't read so much, who spent most of his time outdoors, in natural light, viewing objects at varied distances and varied settings. Maybe our eyes start to go bad because we spend so much time indoors, viewing things in limited settings within limited distances, and especially things close-up like computer screens, and yes, dare I say it, printed pages.
My point is, we have arguments for why times are better now, and why times were better a hundred years ago, or 500 years ago, or 1000 years ago.
Maybe the real issue is how we define better, what things we measure, what items we quantify to come up with "better." I'm not sure it's as clear as we think it is.
Something to think about.