Sunday, February 27, 2011

Does the Internet Make Us Smarter or Dumber?

Those were interesting articles and it is a conversation that I am sure will be debated for a long time.  There has become a huge reliance factor on the internet which means that in certain instances it has become a crutch and means that we are not forced to retain information for ourselves because it acts as a massive data bank that we can recall with a few strokes of a keyboard.  Obviously, with the search engines like google we are also able to extract more precise information with those few stroes, rather than having to thrift through thousands of pages of information.  As an example of this, try to think of 15 movies that Tom Cruise has been in.  I would think that most Scientologists could probably muster out 10 to 12 movies (I should mention we will count all Mission Impossible movies as one disaster, not three separate incidents) but for most of us it would be tough to gather enough to make a full fifteen responses unless you were a huge fan.  If we really wanted to know what movies he had been in what would our first instinct be now days?  Well it would mostly likely be Wikipedia or IMDb.  We might sit there and grind out a few moments trying to think of more movies, but when it came down to it we would turn to the internet.  It is tough to think of how we would have gotten up to date instant information like that prior to the internet.  It would have been a much more exhaustive search.  Maybe we would've just made ourselves more cognizant of all information, however trivial.  But now we can allow information to pass right through us because of our confidence in being able to use the internet as our new memory bank.

I realize this doesn't make us dumb, but it doesn't help in making us look intelligent either.  That is one part of the arugment.  The other side is that the overwhelming wealth of information on the internet has granted us the ability to connect with so many different strands of thought and knowledge that it is expanded our world beyond anything we could have thought of a couple of decades ago.  The stuff that children are informed of today is so far advanced and worldly than almost anything I was exposed to in even high school.  It is a truly incredible change.  This has definitely created a better informed group of youngsters, and a more socially conscious group of citizens.  It could be a debate of semantics, but to say the internet makes us dumb or smart is difficult to measure.  I think that a better way it could be stated would be that it has to ability to make us dependent and at the same time is has the ability to make us much better informed.  At the same time it can engage different perspectives of learning, it can also make us passive in actually absorbing that information because we know we can always access it.  Each one of these attributes has the capacity to make someone 'dumb' or 'smart' depending on their disposition, but as a broad statement I think they are much too harsh.  When it comes down to it, there is no question the internet is so much more beneficial to mankind because the internet can shift perspectives, and you do not need to memorize facts in order to have that shift.  You just need a stimulus that creates a feeling, which many times we now get from the information we gather online. 

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