Elizabeth Gabel: Internet May Decrease Thought

Background

GNIC hosted essay contests across the U.S. and Canada in fall 2009. Part of the prompt was:

[How does the internet change our] intelligence – our memories, attention spans, as well as our abilities to focus, reflect and synthesize? Specifically, shape your argument as a response to Nicholas Carr’s Is Google Making Us Stupid? and Jamais Cascio’s Get Smarter… [more]

Elizabeth Gabel is a student at Pennsylvania State University. You can contact Elizabeth at elizagabel [@) psu DOT – edu.

Elizabeth Gabel’s Essay

“The instant gratification of the internet can be alluring.  It is a source for quick answers requiring limited thought.  A simple search can reveal analyses of works and a variety of facts.  With cyberspace offering us so much for so little, we become spoiled and abstain from important types of thinking.  If it is easier to search for an explanation of a topic online than to create a unique take on it, people are less likely to bother thinking it through.

Take, for example, a mathematical formula built out of basic concepts.  If one knows the fundamental formulas, it is possible to manipulate and combine them to form the desired equation.  However, it is quicker and requires less thought to simply find the final formula on the internet.   This removal of the necessity of cognition invites mental laziness whereas needing to figure out methods and problems oneself invites mental growth.  Even just to find simple facts, it can be a mental exercise to try to find them in one’s memory.  This simple opportunity is lost if one simply searches for the answer online.

Since it takes more time to solve problems and recall facts independently, people with internet access may find it easier to use others’ findings online than come up with their own.  Therefore, the web can inhibit mental exercise and growth if used too frequently.  This is not to say that the internet cannot be used to share new information and ideas to which others can then respond and build off of, but used too often it can remove vital mental practice and decrease the resulting potential intelligence.”

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