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Is Google Making Us Dumb? 21% (and me) said Yes March 5, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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A portion of the Pew Research Center’s project, “The Future of the Internet IV”, examines an article written by Nicholas Carr in the summer of 2008 entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (published in the Atlantic Monthly). The study asked respondents if they agreed with Carr, that human intelligence (measured by IQ) would not have increased and may have even decreased by 2020. Results were as follows (for totals): 76% did not agree with Carr, 21% did, and 2% did not respond. What is most interesting about this study is the lengthy comments that follow explaining their stance on human intelligence and how it will be affected by Internet information searching. Most discussion revolves around the issues we are well aware of–engaged reading has turned into skimming and jumping, what we used to have to remember we can always access, and (on the positive side) the number of resources available has exploded (although one could also start the debate on quality versus quantity).

Carr argues that our thinking is changing from a more strenuous method to a less vigorous one. He states that,”the ease of online searching and distractions of browsing through the web were possibly limiting his capacity to concentrate”. I see changes in my own thinking daily and have always believed this to be a product of information overload. Never one to have an attention problem, I too find myself unable to read an entire article, feeling the need to skim and move on. Many of Carr’s adversaries don’t see this as a negative thing. They believe that we are required to process information this way now

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that we have so many sources available to us. While these objectors have a point, one has to ask where this will end? When will we max out? Information resources continue to proliferate and there has to come a point when we say ‘enough is enough’. If we spend all day skimming and comparing, when does the actual thinking and decision-making take place? Clearly, I agree with Carr and his small set of followers that Google (symbolically representing the Internet as a whole) will make us dumb.

Another argument that the commenters seem to miss is that knowledge and intelligence are not the same thing. While someone may have the most knowledge from browsing the Internet, this does not mean they can harness or process it in any useful way. However, you may take someone with limited knowledge and a lot of intelligence and teach them to do amazing things. True, an intelligent person with no knowledge cannot do much, but a person with a plethora of knowledge and no intelligence is just as useless. In conclusion, I would have to say that though “Google” will inevitably make us more knowledgeable,  it cannot make us think more clearly.



1. dataduchess - March 5, 2010

Interesting points. I disagreed with you when I saw the headline, but halfway through the post, just as I was about to stop skimming and move on to something else, I got to the part where you address that feeling. Intrigued, I finished the article, and I have to agree with your final paragraph. Knowledge and Intelligence are not the same, and you’re right that Google is certainly not going to make anyone think more clearly, although, I don’t agree that Google is making the problem any worse.
Just for the sake of argument though – if we accept that Google/Internet is making some people stupider, can we assume that it is making the already intelligent people more intelligent, since they know how to think and can do something with this wealth of accessible knowledge? Will this make broader the gap between the smart and the stupid people? And perhaps, as evolution takes its course, instead of humans as a species getting stupider, the stupid strains will die off, and the more intelligent humans will prevail?
One can dream…

2. Kathy - March 7, 2010

Interesting blog. It is an interesting question to ponder. Just wanted to stop by and thank you for commenting on my blog and wish you good luck in the blogging world.

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