Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is The Internet Making Me Stoopid?*

Make your own memes featuring Starebert here.

Today I needed sample Taxation bar exam questions, a backgrounder on HBO's Cirque du Freak, and Supreme Court cases providing the "exception to the exception" of the doctrine of judicial courtesy. And I needed it fast. Google, as usual, did not disappoint.

It seems almost trite to say that technology has vastly simplified my life. But say it, I shall. Instead of having to go to school just to look for cases and books in the library, I can save money and time wasted on the long commute by staying home and searching for the answers online. I can email simple motions directly to my Supervising Lawyer and use the waiting time to finish my required hand-written digests to the sound of John C. Reilley and Salma Hayek arguing in the background.

My recent dependence on Google made me think of Nicholas Carr's controversial article, which offered what seems to be a compelling argument that the Internet has detrimental effects on human cognition. That is, our capacity for concentration and contemplation has greatly diminished because the Internet has allegedly transformed us into shallow, distracted subjects. He cites Richard Foreman and the latter's notion of "pancake people" -- "spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.” The way we think is changing at the same pace our medium of imbibing knowledge is changing. And these changes, according to Carr, might not be for the best. He writes:

The idea that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines is not only built into the workings of the Internet, it is the network’s reigning business model as well. The faster we surf across the Web—the more links we click and pages we view—the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link—the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It’s in their economic interest to drive us to distraction.

Wikipedia reveals that Carr develops these arguments further in his recently released book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. This made me think though -- without the Internet, Google wouldn't have had the space in which to operate. Without Google, I wouldn't have discovered Nicholas Carr or his article. I wouldn't have realized that the way I consume information over the Internet might pose terrible risks to my I.Q. Sure, Carr's premise may have triggered a bit of existentialist angst, but without it, what else could I have used to fuel this blog article? More importantly, of course, I wouldn't have finished my minor pleading for OLA on time. Is it possible, then, that Carr is just being the modern-day John Philip Sousa?

While this issue might need for further critical reflection on my end, this is what I do believe: The Internet is NOT making me stoopid. After all, it is elementary that distracted is NOT synonymous to stoopid.

*Title borrowed from Nicholas Carr's 2008 article Is Google Making Us Stoopid?


Samuraixi said...
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Samuraixi said...

I don't think the Internet is making us stupid. I think the availability of so much information that's just at the click of our fingers makes our brains work just like a processor. As soon as the vast information becomes less of an external hard drive or our PC's disk drive and becomes part of our cache, then we're on towards smartdom. hahahaha problem is, we're still evolving and trying to get used to the age of information.

Patty Miranda said...

i sooo agree! we're at the cusp of old and new... of course may growing pains!