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Is Google Making Us Stupid?

May 15, 2009

John Keilman, writing for the the Chicago Tribune re-asks Technology author Nicholas Carr’s question, “Is Google making Us Stupid?”

Some choice quotes from Keilman’s article:

Too much surfing, scanning and tweeting has given me the attention span of a gnat on Red Bull.

And it’s not just my relationship with the printed page that has suffered. I can’t make it through half of a TV drama or three innings of a baseball game before I grow restless. I’ll whip out the BlackBerry or wander to my desktop computer and blaze through a few news and entertainment sites until my click-starved mind is satisfied.

But how long can that last? Some research suggests that the brain itself changes with the media it absorbs — becoming, in the case of the Internet, more amenable to distraction, less capable of deep, sustained thought.

Post it notes on computer screen © Phil Boorman/Cultura/Corbis

Post it notes on computer screen © Phil Boorman/Cultura/Corbis

I’m not sure about Google making me stupid. Actually, I think it is great and I use it all the time to make “quick-and-dirty” searches when I have a trivial (as in trivial pursuit) to recall (okay, technically, I’m not supposed to be encouraging the use of Google as a librarian, but that I think is another post). And I think that’s the problem. Using Google for my”quick-and-dirty” searches – it’s making me forgetful. Since it is so easy and convenient to Google something, there seem to be less incentive to commit that thing to memory. I can’t even remember my phone number since that can also be Googled! Well, actually, I’ve never been able to remember my own phone number, with or without Google, since I don’t normally dial that number.

So, if not being able to recall things is considered a kind of stupidity, then I’m STUPID as charged. My stupidity is not so much because I’m easily distracted and cannot have a sustained “relationship with the printed page” (I still have a viracious appetite for books and although I do a lot of reading online nowadays, I also frequent the bookstore and library for my dose of reading material as I prefer the tactile and olfactory satisfaction of a book), as Keilman suggests, but rather I’ve become too lazy to use my brain to store information. Now, I seem to only index certain terms in my brain, or parts of information, and when I need to embellish more details, I would just Google for it. Like my phone number… Perhaps it’s also due to the Information Obesity factor. Too much information produced at too fast a speed to be processed. So, I’ll just index or bookmark that for later use.

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