Mutterings of a consultant

June 17, 2008

Is the web making us stupid?

Filed under: General rambling — grantfrear @ 2:23 am
Tags: , ,

I came across a very interesting article titled Is Google Making Us Stupid? and thought I would reflect on its contents (note the title of my post is slightly different so as to avoid plagarism).  The article takes a sweeping review over our reading patterns and the way that we consume information in the internet age.  It covers many topics from the reflections of Nietzche upon losing his eyesight and moving to a typewriter all the way to comparing the plans of Google to the sophisticated conclusion to Fredrick Taylors work on scientific management, quite a read let me tell you.

While I think we are all aware that our patterns of consumption, research and recreational reading have changed dramatically due to the web I had never considered how these changes may be affecting my brain.  The author puts forward a perspective of an adaptive brain, one that adjusts to the environment and the context in which it operates.  Nothing startling here however the conclusion drawn with respect to how the internet (a world of snippets, links, soundbites, bouncing, glancing, surfing, instant information etc etc) could be affecting our ability to think, hence it could in fact be making us stupid.

The observation that Nietzche’s writing style and in fact thoughts started to change as he moved from hand writing to typewriter was quite interesting.  In Nietzche’s own words ‘our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts’.  The affect was confirmed by scolars who noted his writing moving from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style’.

One can easily reflect on the influence that txt spk has had on our language and how the medium has altered ones expectations regarding personal communications.  Language evolved to be rich and complex because it was needed.  It was needed to express complex subject matter and it was required for efficiency (one complex word rich in meaning can substitute for a sentence of simple words describing a topic – example in context of this article pedagogy).

Perhaps the most interesting observations in the article is the linkage between the philosophies of Taylorism and the plans that Google have.  The Google strategy, when placed in this context, is indeed somewhat frightening.  Particularly the suggestion that Google will have reached its logical conclusion when it can act as an auxilliary brain connected to the one that will be wasting away in our heads.

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