Is Google making all of us stupid too - in much the same way that three bullet points of no more than 18 words is genuinely accepted as a valid, compelling, convincing and sustained business briefing, regardless of how profound or far reaching the consequences of the slide pack - has Google convinced us that our thoughts have been nourished and deepened, our knowledge and wisdom enriched by a quick squiz and a skim read of 65 words about metaphysics?
Probably, is my thought.
Certainly it's true for the newer generations who have been denied a proper eduction and have never learned the discipline and skills required to indulge in sustained concentration and thought; who have never been required to apply or demonstrate logic or proof of anything, since one person's opinion is as good as the next, so they've learned that you can talk shit and no one will ever challenge it. They're not embedded, immersed in a philosophy, discipline or set of closely examined personal values that will see them through the decades.
On the other hand, while we oldies find it easy to pick up and abuse technology with the rest of them, chucking off the habits of a lifetime so as to become a flibbertigibbet doesn't come entirely naturally.
Or maybe not so much. Maybe my thought is merely a firefly hope, as Nicolas Carr explains it:
"I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.Is Google making us stupid?
My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”
Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it."