Day: March 11, 2013

Is Google Really Making Us Stupid?

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Sabiniana B. Baliba

George Garneau, Ph.D.

11 March 2013

Is Google Really Making Us Stupid?

We are in the twenty-first century, and this is the Digital Age (also known as Computer Age, or Information Age). In this era, our standards of living are high, and our needs now define how we think, talk, and act. Our necessities are forcing us to multi-task, and we are only coping through the invaluable help of the International Network, commonly known as the Internet.

I had the chance to read this 2005 Atlantic article in my previous English class (last spring of 2012). Since my stand on the subject matter has not changed, and given its significance, I decided to write anew about it, for my e-letter today.

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In this anti-technology piece, Pulitzer finalist Nicholas Carr accuses the Internet of harming our brains. (1) Carr blames the Net for the changes he sees in his reading comprehension, likewise for his inability to concentrate when reading extensive articles. (2) He argues so passionately that it has led to a book, entitled The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. However, is Carr’s accusation supported by science? Because contrary to his opinion, new scientific evidences are showing Internet is making us smarter and not stupid. (3)

According to Michael Rosenwald, author of the BrainGain “ . . . new evidence suggests that using the Internet could actually make you smarter, and not rot your brain” (4).

Backed by the scientific findings of Dr. Gary Small, of the Semel Institute of Neuroscience for Human Behavior, University of California, Rosenwald stresses that neurologically speaking, we are benefiting from browsing the Web, googling or Google searching, and just as “ . . . bench presses do for our chest muscles” (5).

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Like Rosenwald, Jonah Lehrer of the New York Times, cited Small’s scientific findings, and pointed out that science even suggested Google searches actually lead to increased activity of our dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—the exact brain area where precise talents and/or abilities like selective attention and deliberate analysis are working, to which according to Carr have allegedly vanished in this Digital Age.

Personally, I am amazed Pulitzer considered Carr for such accolade, and the award giving body solely based his nomination on this article alone–what a poor nomination! For in these modern days, indeed, our needs demand us to multi-task and that’s for practical reasons. For gone are the days of consecration, and we are no longer at liberty to spend hours “digesting” every word and every line of anything we are reading, simply because we have so much responsibilities.

Carr cited a quite relevant article dated 1960 from Marshall McLuhan. However, with more than five decades passed, is McLuhan’s theory still applicable? For Carr’s citations from the nineteenth-century are now obsolete.

In this regard, I hope we careful examine, if those citations are still applicable these days. Moreover, are there any medical or scientific findings that validate Carr’s arguments? For isn’t it, if one is talking about health, it is just fair for us, readers, to demand experts’ words before we even buy one’s hasty accusations?

In conclusion, Google is not making us stupid. Rather, it encourages us to be resourceful. Most especially, it empowers our fingertips that we now can dig on information and knowledge without carrying heavy books and burning our eyes in extensive reading. Moreover, these days, we only do things that are necessary, because we know that’s the practical way of living. For In this era of Computer Age, we think fast; we talk fast; we read fast, and we act fast, because we simply have to. For in this Digital Age, we think practically; we talk practically; we read practically, and we act practically, because we value our time. Lastly, we are coping with most of our responsibilities through the invaluable help of the Internet—we should really thank science for it!

Lastly, if one is reading slow, perhaps a new pair of reading or prescription glasses is needed. But please, let’s not be ungrateful to technology, because historically, it’s what brought humanity to success. We are the smartest animals on earth, because of our abilities to invent and innovate ways through the use of technology That has not changed to this day. And great things await to thinkers, more so, to positive thinkers.

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