Friday, July 04, 2008

What Is the Internet Doing To Our Brains?

Can the perfect recall of silicon memory be an enormous boon to thinking, or is Google making us stupid?

Read about it in The Atlantic. (Update: Link is now fixed, sorry).

HT: Suzanne Perry

12 Comments:

At 7/04/2008 4:06 PM, Anonymous richard said...

Mark,

I think the link is broken.

 
At 7/04/2008 4:31 PM, Blogger Sophist said...

Google does not have any effect on the thinking process itself in a similar way that the numbers you plug in a calculator do not affect its functioning. Of course, it provided the information needed by the thinking process that generate results.

Google is basically an information gathering and retrieval system, a good one. Its current market value as a company reflects its impact on society and technology. The danger is if Google-like systems are equated with "what is", i.e. people start thinking that if they cannot find something in Google it does not exist, or that what they find is all that exists.

Google may end up monopolozing information. That is dangerous. Danger comes with every innovation.

 
At 7/04/2008 6:23 PM, Blogger SBVOR said...

At the moment, Dr. Perry’s link seems broken.

I believe this is the correct link.

For a preview of things to come on my blog, see this chart.

Over the course of the last 31.5 years, anytime Dems control a majority among the House, Senate and White House, the economy does more poorly.

The last time the Dems controlled the House, Senate AND White House for more than two years, the economic destruction was quantitatively MUCH worse than 9/11!

 
At 7/04/2008 6:29 PM, Blogger SBVOR said...

P.S.) When I create the post on my blog, I will better explain the sources and methods used in creating the chart linked to in my previous comment. The numbers on the Y axis of the chart represent both the degree of Dem control of the House, Senate and White House (0-3) as well as the percentage of average annual growth in GDP for the two years in which that degree of Dem control was in place.

 
At 7/04/2008 7:51 PM, Blogger SBVOR said...

Dr. Perry,

I submit that the internet has exponentially increased the productivity of the learning process (to borrow a concept from economics).

Charts & graphs are far more effective and efficient in communicating information than is text.

The beauty of the internet is that it readily facilitates the ability to either skim or dive (to borrow analogies presented in your link). Broader learning is facilitated by skimming. Deeper learning is facilitated by diving. Trends suggest that broader learning is winning out over deeper learning. But, is that necessarily a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe in some ways and not in others.

A well crafted internet page will offer the option to either skim or dive. Any internet page that does not include at least one chart, graph or image has constrained the effectiveness and the efficiency of the learning process. Obviously, you get that (me too).

 
At 7/04/2008 8:39 PM, Blogger rufus said...

The internet is, obviously, making people stoopider.

Every day I click on; and, somebody is wrong about something. Then, I have to spend the whole day "setting them straight."

 
At 7/04/2008 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people report not being able to read books anymore because their attention span is too short from reading web pages. I don't have that problem - maybe I'm immune because I'm too old and developed the habit of reading too long ago. But google provides access to information which allows one to learn faster and obtain information faster which gives more opportunities for thinking if one is inclined to do so. One of the problems I've noted is that younger people are too ready to believe anything they read on the internet - they lack judgement. I don't know if this is because they are young or because they are stupid. Concievably, this could be a negative effect of google - young/stupid people can't identify the trash from the good stuff and therefore learn a lot of nonsense from the internet much faster than the other would. This is a challenge for our schools in the 21st century.

 
At 7/04/2008 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On line commenting and discussion forums also give one greater opportunity to engage in rational debate and to back up their opinions with facts, and to express their ideas in writing. Anyone who engages in this activity will surely develop their intellect to a greater extent, learn from their own research and from the opinions of others.

 
At 7/04/2008 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only problem is, it is so easy to publish on the internet that some people put things out there before they have completely correlated all of their ideas.

 
At 7/05/2008 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you really sit down at a computer and read a 600 page novel? I know I couldn't. But on the printed page it would be easy to do.

Bottom line is that information on the computer is best processed in small chunks. If we're going to delve deeply into a story or a concept, it just doesn't work as well on a computer.

 
At 7/05/2008 1:44 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Hey sbvor, loved the graph, it speaks volumes to me...

It just might explain why the price of gasoline rose $1.83 from Nov. of '06 through June of '08 versus the 79 cents from Jan. 1 of '01 through Nov. of '06...

anon @ 9:03 AM says: "Could you really sit down at a computer and read a 600 page novel? I know I couldn't. But on the printed page it would be easy to do...

Yet maybe technology will take care of that detail too...

rufus says: "Every day I click on; and, somebody is wrong about something. Then, I have to spend the whole day "setting them straight.""...

Sort of like that bio-fuels thingie, eh rufus?

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis

Biofuels 'crime against humanity'?

 
At 7/06/2008 5:26 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

Hey, sophist!

You actually got something pretty much right for once!

Amazing. Who wrote that for you?

> Some people report not being able to read books anymore because their attention span is too short from reading web pages.

BS. it's been a trend for decades. MTV accelerated it, but it's been happening steadily. It's particularly evident if you just go rent the movie The French Connection. In 1971, when that movie was released, the car chase in it was incredibly fast paced, and left audiences amazed. You watch it nowadays and it's almost like a talking heads scene -- which usually has faster pacing in most cases, in the form of the manner of the cuts made -- so that the perception is that it's downright slow.

The same can be said for the otherwise excellent 1973/74 movie adaptation of The Three Musketeers. The pacing of that movie was once quite satisfactory, but, you watch it these days and it comes off as rather slower than ideal.

This is why most people don't watch older movies. Unless they are movie buffs, they don't get the slower, plodding pace which so many older movies occur at.

We have the ability to take in far more than we used to, so that books have what seems to us to be too slow a "feed". We want faster flow rates for data.

But it's not the computers, or the internet, or even MTV which has caused these things, those are merely tertiary effects of the pace of change, which has been accelerating steadily for decades. Alvin Toffler first noted it in 1970, with Future Shock, but I'd argue it's been going on since the 20s or 30s at the least.

 

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