Does the Internet Make Us Stupid?

Nicholas Carr made a splash last summer with his  Is Google Making Us Stupid? article in the Atlantic. Jamais Cascio wrote the first decent response a year later – Get Smarter.

What do you think? Is the web a mental prosthetic which expands the power of our minds or has it obliterated our ability to read long texts?

Which author makes the most compelling case? What if they’re both right? How could we reconcile their views? I’ve outlined  Cascio’s argument and will outline Carr’s soon. This should be helpful: Future of Humanity: A Map of the Conversation. You may also want to browse the discussion Cascio and Carr spurred in the blogosphere.

NOTE: this post will be updated soon.

3 Comments »

  1. Alyssa Burnett Said,

    October 6, 2009 @ 9:31 am

    The internet is beyond crazy; to think we could get information at the click of a button is beyond me. I think the internet is helpful in many, many ways but also takes away from a part of life that seems to be non-existent these days: reading. There are millions of books published with so much information to expand our minds but most people just “google” search to find that information. Books are such a powerful tool and I wish people could come to realize that. Yes, the internet is a useful tool, but no it is not the only tool. The kids are our future and they are growing up with this new technology, which is fine, but they need to be taught that learning through books and other resources are just as important. Learning is the key to life, it’s awesome. I love school, I just wish more people could realize that as well; no- life doesn’t revolve around “facebook” and yes the internet does make you “stupid” if you let it.

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    admin Reply:

    @Alyssa I agree – children need to be aware of resources in addition to the internet (e.g. books, human experts, personal experiences, etc.). The common definition of ‘digital literacy’ is to, “find, evaluate and synthesize information online.” To this I add, “…and to know its limits.”

    You can use the awesome new Encyclopedia of Life to research sphinctomyrmex nigricans (or the other “1.8 million species currently known to science”), but what does it feel like for the thing to crawl on your arm? Sure you can analyze its components and memorize its life cycle by reading or watching video, but what of the intangible experience of observing it in its natural habitat?

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  2. admin Said,

    November 3, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

    Google’s mission is, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

    Check out this old quote by Aldous Huxley in his book Doors of Perception:

    “In a world where education is predominantly verbal, highly educated people find it all but impossible to pay serious attention to anything but words and notions. There is always money for, there are always doctorates in, the learned foolery of research into what, for scholars, is the all-important problem: Who influenced whom to say what when? Even in this age of technology the verbal humanities are honored.

    The non-verbal humanities, the arts of being directly aware o the given facts of our existence, are almost completely ignored. A catalogue, a bibliography, a definitive edition of a third-rate versifier’s ipsissima verba, a stupendous index to end all indexes-any genuinely Alexandrian project is sure of approval and financial support. But when it comes to finding out how you and I, our children and grandchildren, may become more perceptive, more intensely aware of inward and outward reality, more open to the Spirit, less apt, by psychological malpractices, to make ourselves physically ill, and more capable of controlling our out autonomic nervous system–when it comes to any form of non-verbal education more fundamental (and more likely to be of some practical use) than Swedish drill, no really respectable person in any really respectable university or church will do anything about it.

    Verbalists are suspicious of the non-verbal; rationalists fear the given, non-rational fact; intellectuals feel that “what we perceive by the eye (or in any other way) is foreign to us as such and need not impress us deeply.” Besides, this matter of education in the non-verbal humanities will not fit into any of the established pigeonholes. It is not religion, not neurology, not gymnastics, not morality or civics, not even experimental psychology. This being so the subject is, for academic and ecclesiastical purposes, non-existent and may safely be ignored altogether or left, with a patronizing smile, to those whom the Pharisees of verbal orthodoxy call cranks, quacks, charlatans and unqualified amateurs.”

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