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Does Google make us stupid?

Escher's Relativity in Lego by Andrew Simpsom from idigit_teddy via FlickrDoes the internet change our brain structure?

Nicholas Carr thinks so.  I must confess that I haven’t read his book.  I should but I imagine MRI scans could give us a definitive answeer.

I know a lot of people, such as appear on BBC Radio 4 would agree.

While we wait for hard neurophysiological evidence, I’ll suggest that this perception is an illusion.

  • Reading on the web is different.  Those who are very good at working with paper have had to go back to noobe status.  I can’t text (fast) either.  I type fast but I can’t text.  Learning anything takes time and of course, we protest when we have to go down a snake back to Go..  But the fact is our discomfort.  Our discomfort is not evidence that our brain will get scribbled.
  • I have become more impatient with long dense text.  Is that evidence that the internet shortens our attention span?  To this I answer, so?  Why should I wade through some wordy gobbley-gook.  Why not deliver the information more efficiently?  And for the information of those who have learned to wade through verbiage – this is not normal behavior!  We know attention wanders after 10 to 15 minutes.  We know managers have an average task time of 10 minutes.  (I didn’t say it ~ this is a classical result from Mintzberg). Doctors in Britain get 10 minutes from calling your name to returning you to reception.   If we realistically want to communicate with busy people we need to show them what they need in a flash.  Get over it!  We have the tools to communicate better.  Let’s try them.

The internet gives us better manners (well sometimes)

I am writing this post though to quite deliberately link to Dan Erwin who makes an important point.  The internet helps us understand that truth is not certain.

You have your opinion and I have mine.  Not because we cannot communicate but because see the world from slightly different places.  When we take both views into account, we have a fuller picture.

Gen Y have learned to look at a more complete picture through using the internet.  As a result, they should be better leaders and managers and doctors and artists.

Actually, not all of them learn that many views matter.  Some seem to think that if there are many views, any view is truth.

That’s not the case.  Every view is part of the truth.  Every view is valid but only part of the story.

In social science, we call this social constructionism.  In social activism, we call this diversity.  In appreciative inquiry, or positive organizational scholarship, we look for multiple voices and see what picture we make when we listen to all the voices.

I like the way Dan Erwin makes the point and I wrote a whole post so that I don’t lose the link!

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2 Comments

  1. Eli Eli

    I would have to agree with you. The internet cannot be assumed to lower our intelligence. It provides us with resources beyond our dreams and unlimited information. It is a matter of how you use it to how it affects your intelligence.

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