On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer. After all, Google has single-handedly revolutionized the way we obtain and process information. A single click gives access to more knowledge than a hundred encyclopedias. Hypertext and hyperlinks have replaced the more conventional leather-bound paperback while inked words on a page are transposed into pixels on a LCD screen. So how can this possibly make us stupid?
To quote N. Carr, “As we come to rely more and more on the web’s immediacy and vast storehouse of knowledge, we’re losing our willingness – and perhaps our ability – to extract and absorb information from any other source. Are we evolving into intellectual surface skimmers?” This, in essence, summarizes the scope of the matter at hand. We have become so dependent on Google, and the web at large, we no longer think the same. The intel-evolution has changed the way our brains process data. Like HAL, it is as if something has been remapping our neural circuitry, and reprogramming our cognitivity.
The net is becoming (or has already become) a universal medium for information and ‘truth’. Books with lengthy narratives have lost their appeal as we migrate towards efficiency and immediacy. Studies have shown those who used to be avid readers, are now having trouble concentrating on anything longer than a couple of pages – never mind War and Peace. The more we use the web, the more we need to fight to stay focused. Skimming over articles and picking out key words and phrases is now a skill embedded in our brains. Source hopping has also become more frequent in the wake of Google and it is clear that reading online is far removed from the traditional sense of reading.
Even though we are absorbing more information than ever before, we are slowly losing intellect as we become lazy and despondent. We no longer have to sift through dusty archives to find what we are looking for, nor do we double check our sources when researching for a paper. We mistake our ignorance and conceit for knowledge and real wisdom. As we gear towards a world of digital data manipulation, we are putting ourselves in danger of becoming nothing more than an artificial intelligence.