Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Is the internet making us dumb?

I stumbled across this article in the Atlantic monthly (ironically, while googling something totally different.) The author notes that the ability of so much data online allows us to get information quickly, greatly reducing what were once long hours in the library. However, in the process, we have lost some of the ability to concentrate in deep thoughts and long text.
It was funny, that I even found the article itself to be much longer than a typical internet read. It sounds like he is right on. Google is in fact making us stupid - while at the same time augmenting our intelligence in other areas, just as writing and publishing have done earlier.
The scariest part about this is the strong interdependence. With more and more dependent on the net, we find it difficult to function without it. I've seen an office pretty much shut down when the internet connection goes down. What work can you do without the net? I remember 10 years ago finding it a real challenge to work when the company had blocked outgoing internet connections. And that was back when offices were not nearly so net-dependent. Attempts to serve as a company gatekeepers can be a challenge both to productivity and morale. But, the lack of connectivity can be devastating. And even more worrisome is the central 'google' gatekeeper. It seems search results have been getting worse - probably as a result of more junk out there. But other times, the junk filtering eliminates the valuable results that you are in fact looking for. Will we one day have a great index tied in to our brains? By that time the computers may just decide they've had enough of this 'slavery'...

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