Jan 25, 2018 in Analysis

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

The internet is one of the technological tools that have revolutionized the world

It has facilitated communication between people who are thousands of miles apart as if they were next to each other. The internet has also been applied in other fields such as medicine and surgery. Currently, a surgeon can operate on a patient remotely using the internet. This eliminates the need to travel and operate on the patient physically. People in the contemporary world live in an information age. There is vast information distributed throughout the internet. Search engines such s Google and Bing enable people to find the information they are looking for almost immediately. This enables people to gain knowledge on various topics that interest them. However, various people believe that the internet does not help in improving people’s knowledge. They claim that it does the opposite; it makes people stupid. They claim that the internet leads to the replacement of knowledge with information, hence making people stupid. They also claim that the internet replaces contemplation, which is vital in the acquisition of knowledge, with efficiency. Nicholas Carr is one of the people who believe that the internet makes people become stupid. In his article titled ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid?,’ which was published in The Atlantic, he tries to point out the reasons that make him believe that the internet make people stupid. Carr claims that reading online erodes knowledge as it is less though provoking that reading books.

This paper would analyze various factors that Carr uses to support his argument that the internet makes people stupid. The paper will mainly focus on three aspects of Carrs arguments. These include the claim that the internet makes people become distracted, the way people read online has led to a change in people’s mode of thinking and hence making people become less contemplative, and finally the values associated with reading online are usually related to efficiency and gathering of information instead of gaining knowledge by understanding various concepts under discussion.

Carr claims that the internet makes people become distracted

He uses various personal examples and stories from his friends to sustain his claim. He claims that web pages have many hyperlinks, advertisements, and other media that distract users. He provides the example of reading a newspaper online. He claims that when one is reading a newspaper online, the individual may receive an email, which would distract the individual from the information in the newspaper.  Carr builds his argument on how the internet distracts people from the beginning of the article. Carr begins his article with a quote from a science fiction movie. “Dave stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? (Carr para 1).  Carr claims that he feels as if technological advancements are affecting his mind. He claims that his mind usually struggled to concentrate on reading a book. He claims that the internet is the main factor that has reduced the concentration. As such he calls the internet “the perfect recall of silicone memory” (Carr para 2). He also claims that most of his friends have similar experiences.

Carr’s second claim is that the internet has made people become less contemplative

He uses facts from a study in London, which claims that people who read through the internet do not read via conventional methods. Therefore, they cannot absorb as much information as if they were reading using traditional methods. Carr claims that “we are what we read” (Carr para 3). In so doing he highlights the importance of reading in the existence of an individual. However, Carr claims that reading is not inherent in people’s genes like speech. This implies that the way people read may be influenced similarly to how other habits can be influenced. Carr quotes several professors he has talked to in supporting his claim. He claims that it is possible to mould the human brain even when is at an advanced age. He uses the invention of the mechanical clock to support this claim. He asserts that the invention of the mechanical clock made people start thinking in terms of mathematical sections of time. This type of thinking was previously non-existent as people thought in terms of days or activities they usually perform during certain times of the day. As such Carr claims that the invention of the mechanical clock made people start obeying the clock. The clock dictated the time people ate, slept, or woke up.

Carr’s third claim is that reading online is mainly associated with efficiency and information gathering instead of gaining knowledge by understanding various concepts under discussion. He claims that the internet has made it easy for people to access information through the click of a mouse. Carr uses the analogy of Frederick Winslow Taylor. Taylor used principles of scientific management to improve speed, efficiency, and output of factory workers. He undertook time and motion studies to organize factory workers into jobs that helped in improving speed, efficiency, and output of the workers. As such, substitution of science into the work of the workers created “a utopia of perfect efficiency” (Carr para 23). Carr claims that in Taylor’s system is still operational in the contemporary world. He claims that the internet had made software engineers and software coders have so much power over other people. They control the mind of the individuals. This makes people assume they are more efficient due to the development of the internet. However, in so doing, they lose their ability to gain knowledge.

I disagree with Carr’s claims that technology is making us stupid

Carr acknowledges the fact that people currently read more due to the internet. However, he claims that people’s “ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” (Carr para 8). In so doing, he claims that the negative impacts of technology on improving knowledge outweigh its benefits. I have supported the implementation of technology for many years. I have heard similar claims from various people during my discussions. In fact, various parties claim that Carr article was spot on. However, nothing can be further from the truth. It is a fact that people’s habits keep changing from time to time. The internet has revolutionized almost all activities. It is the starting point in most activities. However, the internet is significantly different from books. Whereas books contain information about certain essential truths, the internet contains information that is not authoritative or final. As such, people have to look for bits of information from various internet sources. Searching from many sites enables people to get the aggregate wisdom from the sites as opposed to reading a book, which is authoritative despite the fact that it may contain wrong information.

Carr has only one perception of the changes taking place in the contemporary world

He only views technological advancements as leading to the loss of book habits. The book has played a critical in the development of knowledge throughout history. The book made people think that an individual could write ideas and concepts that could be considered as the absolute truth. Books lived for a long a long period even when their authors passed on. In so doing, they passed the ideas to other people. They made it impossible for people who wrote the books to claim to ‘own’ the ideas in the book. However, books are bulky and expensive to publish. This makes knowledge in the books develop very slowly. In addition, it is hard to respond to the knowledge. Finally, knowledge in books is scarce since one would have to first acquire the book to access the knowledge. People also use new books, reviews, or articles to criticize information in books. The time it takes to publish the new books, reviews, or articles slows down conversations on issues discussed in books. However, one should not ignore the importance books as they helped in building the culture in civilized societies. They helped in improving people’s knowledge. However, they overlooked how people learn – through oral interaction or in group settings (Hacker, Gordon & ‎Vries 48). 

Therefore, it is easy for Carr and like-minded people to criticize technology

However, it is very difficult to understand the impact of technology on the development of new human abilities. It is even more difficult to understand how technology may help in recapturing human capabilities. Carr claims that people who use the internet to read usually ‘skim’ information or bounce around various information. However, this is the new type of orality, which has developed due to technological advancements. In the contemporary world, people can read and talk simultaneously. As such, reading the internet is like a group of people who are deep in conversation. This enables people to create new knowledge as the internet enables people to post responses on various issues, which can be seen instantly by other people reading the information. This increased the speed of development of knowledge.

In conclusion, Google and the internet are not making people stupid. They are simply enabling people to reclaim their legacy through fast exchange of information in social settings. Therefore, Google and the internet have made people become smarter.

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