Thursday, February 24, 2011

Smart or Dumber: The Internet? It Seems Clear to Me!

My opinion of whether the Internet made us smarter or dumber was unmoved after reading each these articles.  I see the Internet as another link in the chain of development of human connectedness and knowledge that began with the first humans (or primates or whatever you believe) began to talk, then pass on stories.  The printing press, telegraph, telephone, and television have all been links in this chain and the Internet just continues the evolution.  
I found many of the points made in the “Does The Internet Make You Dumber?” article unconvincing.  Quotes like, “What we seem to be sacrificing in all our surfing and searching is our capacity to engage in the quieter, attentive modes of thought that underpin contemplation, reflection and introspection. The Web never encourages us to slow down. It keeps us in a state of perpetual mental locomotion”  seem to be missing the point.  Our minds will always have a place for that quiet contemplation, reflection and introspection, it will just happen when we are not online.  The Internet could be developing a new gear in in our brains, one that allows us to process information at a never before experienced level.  
Another point the “Dumber” article made that I found hard to swallow was, “Reading a long sequence of pages helps us develop a rare kind of mental discipline. The innate bias of the human brain, after all, is to be distracted. Our predisposition is to be aware of as much of what's going on around us as possible. Our fast-paced, reflexive shifts in focus were once crucial to our survival. They reduced the odds that a predator would take us by surprise or that we'd overlook a nearby source of food.”  This point seems to undercut itself.  If reading long passages is an unnatural state for our minds, and the Internet allows us to return to our intended state of “fast-paced reflexive shifts” then is that not a good thing?  Are we not then going with the grain of our minds, instead of against it?  As it stands how many books does the average person read a year?  Of the world population, how many people go years between reading books?  And in addition, books are still there and to be read, so now we have the best of both worlds.  Books for those that would be reading them anyways, and the Internet for them as well, but also for everyone else!
To me, the Internet is still in its beginning stages.  We are just now understanding the possibilities it can allow.  As we have learned in this class the educational applications that the Internet allows alone disprove the “Dumber” argument.  Is everything on the Internet for the betterment of our minds?  No, but neither was every book, or most of TV, or any of the other various forms we had that lead us here.  The Internet is not making us dumber for the simple fact that it is too busy making us smarter.  Today we have so much information and new perspectives at our finger tips that we are seeing the world in a wholly different way.  We can look at Twitter as a fad in meaningless self-expression, or we can look at it as an evolutionary leap that jumped forward from where human biology could not go.  It is, in a way, mental telepathy.  Our thoughts are now made known across the globe instantaneously.  We can know what others are thinking without any guess work.  Plus with the trends function we can see what the global buzz is at any moment.  This allows for a shared collective consciousness that was nowhere on the horizon even five years ago.
The Internet is not making us dumber.  The Internet is taking us to new places, increasing our collective and individual knowledge bases, and best of all it is only just beginning.
Now to totally contradict myself.  Check out this piece entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid” from the July/August issue of The Atlantic: the very least it dissuades the point about the Internet not engaging us in long-form!

1 comment:

  1. I liked your comment right off the top, that these articles didn't change your views on the internet and its applications. This is because I felt the same way, the "dumber" article seemed to be nothing more than the ranting of somehow who doesn't fully understand the complexities of the online world. Plus, it was very well stated that distractions are, and always will be, a part of human nature; even if we are reading a book.