Is The Internet Making Us Stupid?

Though it may not always feel like it, the Internet is actually making us smarter, at least according to a new survey of scientists, business leaders, and technology developers.

A collection of over 900 experts interviewed for the Pew Internet report The Future of the Internet IV, released last Friday February 19th, were asked their views on how the Internet is affecting us–now and in another 10 years. Though most felt that the Internet can and would improve our reading, writing, and overall grasp of knowledge, some experts were reluctant to jump on that bandwagon.

“Three out of four experts said our use of the Internet enhances and augments human intelligence, and two-thirds said use of the Internet has improved reading, writing, and rendering of knowledge,” said Janna Anderson, study co-author and director of the Imagining the Internet Center, in a statement. “There are still many people, however, who are critics of the impact of Google, Wikipedia, and other online tools.”

In the summer of 2008, writer Nick Carr wrote a controversial article for The Atlantic entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” One of his rants went like this: “Remember books? Those were the things we read before e-mail, Web browsing, and Twitter came on the scene. Speaking of Twitter, am I the only one who views it as further evidence of a soundbite culture that struggles even to think beyond 140 character blips? We really don’t want to think like Google. We don’t want to speak like Twitter. We don’t want to converse like e-mail. And yet we increasingly do, as the Internet reshapes the world in its image.”

Pew Internet asked the same question of its panel of experts and most disagreed with the premise that browsing and skimming through Web sites is lowering our ability to concentrate. Some said that Google makes us more informed and creative. Others said sites like Google make us intellectually lazy. And for many, the answer was not as simple as the question.

One train of thought is that Google will make us stupid and intelligent at the same time. In the future, we will live in a transparent 3D mobile media cloud that surrounds us everywhere. In this cloud, we will use intelligent machines, to which we’ll delegate both simple and complex tasks. Therefore, we will lose the skills we needed in the old days…but we will gain the skill to make better choices.

What do you think? Will the gains outweigh the losses? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

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