Does Google Make Us Stupid?

I came across an interesting report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. It addressed the question “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The answer, according to most experts and stakeholders, is no.

A few quotes from the experts:

  •  “Google will make us more informed. The smartest person in the world could well be behind a plow in China or India. Providing universal access to information will allow such people to realize their full potential, providing benefits to the entire world.” – Hal Varian, Google, chief economist
  •  “Google allows us to be more creative in approaching problems and more integrative in our thinking. We spend less time trying to recall and more time generating solutions.” — Paul Jones, ibiblio, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
  •  “The question is flawed: Google will make intelligence different. As Carr himself suggests, Plato argued that reading and writing would make us stupid, and from the perspective of a preliterate, he was correct. Holding in your head information that is easily discoverable on Google will no longer be a mark of intelligence, but a side-show act. Being able to quickly and effectively discover information and solve problems, rather than do it “in your head,” will be the metric we use.” — Alex Halavais, vice president, Association of Internet Researchers
  •  “People are already using Google as an adjunct to their own memory. For example, I have a hunch about something, need facts to support, and Google comes through for me. Sometimes, I see I’m wrong, and I appreciate finding that out before I open my mouth.” — Craig Newmark, founder Craig’s List

The experts agree that Google changes how we use our intelligence. Searching changes and challenges us to think and communicate differently.

To quote from the report:

New literacies will be required to function in this world. In fact, the internet might change the very notion of what it means to be smart. Retrieval of good information will be prized. Maybe a race of “extreme Googlers” will come into being.

For myself, I have noticed I think in hypertext now. For anyone who wonders what this means, I suggest reading an article on the “The Rhetoric of the Hyperlink.” The ability to link information together is a powerful tool and should be considered whenever preparing content for distribution online. The ability to link together pages, media, images, and ideas adds shape, dimension, and visualization to the act of writing. Links add emphasis to words and color the “page.” I structure my writing to leave room for the links, letting my reader navigate the subject according to the depth of their interest and engagement.

I no longer spend much time navigating the space of a book or catalog. I jump in and out of information sources online, scanning to test the validity of my ideas. That’s not solid research, but it is making the most of my hunches. And it’s an amazing tool for finding like-minded contacts. Let the good ideas grow.

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