Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is Google making us stupid?

I got turned on to this Atlantic Journal article that discusses how our use of the internet changes how we think.

I think writers have been discussing internet as a medium for quite some time. The article even discusses how each new technology changed the way we delivered information to each other had its naysayers that it would be the end of human brain function. And indeed there were pros and cons to each. Going from oral to written allowed vast amounts of information to be archived, but it also prevented access to only those who could read and interpretation and recording up to those who could write. The printing press causes phrases to get even shorter as it was time consuming to put in each word.

But it's not just google. Our language has transformed in ways because of blogging, and texting. And the way we use language changes the mind and body.

It's been a fascinating article that has stimulated various discussion with people I've sent it to particularly around techies who are always around technology. But also writers who constantly obsess over the page size of journals and paper.

The thing I find about Google is how we are redefining "source". I've googled some phrases to essentially get the same exact article word for word on 90% of the links sited. If this were a book, there would be a citation in regards to where this is from, but the internet barely had the original author's name, much less any reference to the dozen other sites that had the same article.

I know that Wikipedia attempts to try to have people verify their sources to try to really bring about true data, but even Wikipedia by its nature must succumb to the democratization of truth. If everyone says that this information is correct and no one steps up to correct it, then this is the "truth". And you have a younger generation that cites the internet as its source in their research papers.

Another question, is not just with Google, but do we take what we expect from Google and do we place that same expectation to other things in our lives. Do we presume that the first answer we get (how many of us troll to the 5-6 page of google searches) is the answer we need? And how much do we expect that the fastest answer is the most accurate answer? Or that we think that the answer we get is the entirety of the answer we need? How our knowledge becomes dwindled into summary.

On the contrary, if our minds are not filling with information necessarily, then what does that free our minds to do? If I don't need to know how to draw that parabola in Calculus because now my graphing calculator does it for me, then what other things can I free my mind to think about and process? At the same time, what are the skills and benefits of understanding how a theory was derived that I am losing because this computer did it for me? What knowledge is lost, what knowledge is gained? And in the end, how does this transform how we think and what we think about and ultimately the different directions society takes itself in.

The title of the article of course is meant to be provocative, but really it seems like how is google changing what we think of as stupid.

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