Friday, August 15, 2008

Nicholas Carr is right-Google is making us stoopid (sic)

Google is making us stupid. Well, Carr actually asked the question rather than made the statement but I think I know what his opinion is from reading the article he wrote in the latest Atlantic Monthly (July/August 2008 issue, Is Google Making us Stupid?). As I read I was jumping up and down in agreement. It's just the right question. For thinking humans, the internet it too tempting and too easy. While writing an article on dementia this evening I suddenly thought of an old school friend who became a famous horse jumper and rushed to Google to see if she was involved in the Olympic team. This distraction lasted about 10 minutes and was fruitless in turning up my friend. I them turned back to the article for half a paragraph before wondering about the weather tomorrow because we have a cook-out with friends. A quick check on reassured me that the cook-out has a 60% chance of being dry but if any storms occur, they are likely to be severe. Oh, and right now, there is a tornado brewing in New York. Only two minutes for that one and back to the article. I read for half a paragraph more before deciding to write this blog.
Carr feels that the net is changing not just the way we search but the way we think. The inventors of Google seem to be banking on it, as are all the advertisers that tempt us in every scrap of free space on the Internet. The potential for distraction on any one web page is enormous, with information just one click away on how to buy, sell, learn, relax, see related information, dig into archives, check our IQ, our eyesight, our 'real age' etc, etc. It is endless.
Information is so readily available that it becomes an invaluable tool for advancing human intellect. Fact, figures, answers are available virtually instantly. So rapidly can one get answers that we can ask hundreds of questions a day. Great! Mmmm,not so fast. In the olden days, when you had to look up information in libraries, newspapers or even other people's heads, you were more choosy about what you might ask. Some questions were not worth the trouble. Nowadays any whim that takes our fancy can be searched in an instant. It takes minutes. The problem is, all those not so smart questions that I didn't really need to know the answers to take up a good portion of my day when I add them all together. This is the power of the net-to allow one to collect unprecedented volumes of 'answers' to often trivial questions, thus making us unquestionably more intellectual, but arguably less intelligent. By orders of magnitude in my opinion. OSHO, the Indian philosopher sees intellect and intelligence as opposites in balance. More of one leads to less of the other. If OSHO is correct the Google is making us stupid. I am not a Luddite, but I do believe that as with freedom, technological advancement comes with great responsibility. It can't be take as read that more is better when it comes to information, especially when it comes at the expense of time to think. Who has to stop the madness? We do, of course. Only you and I can decide not to click that interesting link on the most recent evidence for Big Foot and the bizarre news conference that went with it....the web calls, gotta go..
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