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Is Google making us stupid?

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posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 09:51 AM
Or rather, is the internet changing our thought process and how we think? Is the internet affecting our evolution? Came across this article which got me thinking about my mental habits and how they might have changed since I started using the internet as part of my daily life.

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?”


I agree with most of what is said here. My concentration span has reduced dramatically over the last 3 years or so which coincides with my first serious use of the internet (although that might have been about 6 months to a year before I noticed my attention span change).

The floor beside my bed always had piles of books that I read until the early hours. I could never turn my light off to sleep without reading a few chapters of a book. Now, the pile beside my bed has transformed over time into a pile of magzines and newspaper articles. Many of which I skim read or leave unfinished. On my shelves are books I purchased with the intention of getting lost in a fantasy world but each of those books are there either unopened or with the first few pages read.

I'm wondering also now if my inabillity to write short stories has been affected also. I seem to be able to write onnly flash fiction and even that tales a lot of discipline to stay focused anymore. Considering I used to write pages of material before the internet.

I'm really interested to hear your thoughts on this and maybe expand them into other areas.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 09:54 AM
reply to post by Yossarian

i don't think it's making us stupid. just the opposite. it's also making us faster, and that can be overwhelming and really do a number on concentration. it's got to be identified and tempered, i think.

there is a danger that it might literally make us stupid if people think everything they see out there is correct and real and true. and it's bad we stop reading (and writing) books.

[edit on 14-6-2008 by ~Lucidity]

[edit on 14-6-2008 by ~Lucidity]

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 09:56 AM

Originally posted by ~Lucidity
reply to post by Yossarian

i don't think it's making us stupid. just the opposite. it's also making us faster. but i do agree that there is a danger if people think everything they see out there is correct and real and true. and it's bad if they stop reading books.

[edit on 14-6-2008 by ~Lucidity]

Just to be clear, I'm not talking about the actual content of the internet, just how the structure of the internet affects our brains' mechanics.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 09:59 AM
reply to post by Yossarian

yeah, i knew that. editied post to clarify what i mean by "faster."

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 10:22 AM
reply to post by ~Lucidity

Thats why google is helping make us smarter... we look for a certain subject and it finds us hundreds of responses so we can do our own research. Knowledge is the secret to truth, the more you know the better off you are... Google is empowering us to become smarter and seek the truth. After all... thats how I found out about Above top secret

[edit on 14-6-2008 by rjmelter]

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 10:28 AM

That may be true, but the evidence is not that you've lost abiliity its that you've lost the time to explore your books your using more time for the internet probably and have less time so you browse shorter articles. I dont know. Your life is what you make of it. You are in control of your future. Age is a factor so stay on top of your game, keep yourself thinking. I wouldn't however get lost in fantasy. The life around us is a real fantasy. Be a warrior for truth for the lot of us. Make great changes for the betterment of our lives.


posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 10:59 AM
I don't think it's what we are reading, be it a book or the internet. It's not even how often we read or the content, but it's more to do with how we relay that information back out into the open.

In other words, speaking and writing.

Most have us have read a book or seen a film and thought 'wow, that was good'... then we go off and relay the book/film to a friend or group of people about how it made you think, feel and create new thoughts and ideas.

Your relaying of the information enforced and strengthened your memory of the details. It made memory recall more tuned.

I can read a post here in ATS and come up with an answer to reply with, but that answer may very well be as short as a majority of posts elsewhere.

I could read a page on TinWiki and then come back here and write a full report on it that may cover two or three complete posts to do.

The internet forces you to grab further relevant information. You can't take any one page as the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth. You have to look elsewhere for further reading to verify the 'facts' you've found on TinWiki so as to enforce the data you post into ATS threads.

As with books, you don't just rely on one author. Imagine everyone only ever reading Agatha Christie! We'd all be experts on murder mysteries and nothing else. That's the beauty of being able to write. your opinions and research are able to be spread far further than your unrecorded voice will ever get.

A library or book shop is a place to store information. You have to physically go there to retrieve several pieces of data to read up on to further your understanding of any particular subject. Physical travel is one of the drawbacks here, along with the ability to shout across to a friend and say 'Hey, come see what I've's great.and look at this pic..'

It's an almost taboo thing to do in a library.

But the internet allows the instant grabbing of hundreds of libraries and millions of minds and opinions. So much so that google can actually make you think harder on the search preferences you enter.

If you were to search google for the word 'sun', you will get millions of pages all about the sun in our solar system, suns in other solar systems, the sun newspaper, sun computer programmes and many many more. So you become swamped with results and you have to step back and refine your search, in other words 'think again'.

So now you've typed in 'dark spots on the sun' and retrieve several thousand pages on sun spot activity, causes and effects etc. You've got what you were looking for.

Now, because you're using the internet, you can jump onto your chat programme or climb back into ATS, or do both, and alert several hundred people to what you've found in a matter of seconds. But what do you do?

You do this... "Hey, look what I've found!"

And then expect everyone to read what you've found so they can see what's so fascinating. So you've immediately reduced your ability to recall a subject and are not enforcing your own memory recall as you're not physically accessing the information you've just discovered. You're just relaying the physical internet copy of the information. You're not doing any 'brain' work.

But if you were to take even 10 minutes to sit there and type out a few paragraphs on the relevant information that you wished to highlight before you sent it out, then maybe you will become not only a bit more educated, but a better writer too.

So no, google does not make us more stupid...we are doing it to ourselves due to the flood of information and our own laziness at not wanting to ensure what we're reading is truth and our inability to correctly relay that information on to others.

This is the beauty of ATS.. you can't just simply post 'look here'
You have to do some research and gather correct information and then write a section on what you've found to intice others to read more, to be educated, to see your point of view, to become aware of something that may be life changing.

[edit on 14-6-2008 by Extralien]

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 11:11 AM
The further you are from the truth the more words you need to disguise that fact. This is, arguably, why religious books are so long. You're not learning anything, you're being bombarded with the intention of being kept uninformed, because knowledge is actually quite pure and concise.

In this context Google is not making us dumber, and can actually be doing the opposite, depending on the thought processes of the individual searching. Google is allowing us to filter information quicker and with greater volumes, and I believe at least some of humanity is becoming smarter and more educated due to this process. One thing I think everyone has noticed is how less gulible people are becoming and how much more difficult it is for the political elite to mislead us. I atribute this situation to the internet and to a more mobile global consciousness which is successfully filtering out information and being objective.

We've been diseducated to think that only someone who is well read is knowledgeable, but the reality is knowledge is far more objective, and that information bombardment has been used to keep people dumber. I have been less than impressed with the intelectuals I have talked to in my life, with a few exceptions. "Can't see the forrest for the trees" is the expression that comes to mind.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 11:17 AM
reply to post by Yossarian
BI ( before Internet ) I always had a book with me. I read myself to sleep at night, read while waiting for an appointment and could not wait to complete my chores so I could disappear into my book again.

Books are our friends. They can take us all over the world and out of the world.

I find myself in your same predicament. I miss the excitement of becoming engrossed in a book that I don't want to put down until I finish it.

In my opinion, our thirst for knowledge has given way to the speed at which we are able to gain information using the Internet rather than taking time to read several sources to reach a conclusion.

Google is a short cut to finding answers to our questions. Forums like ATS allow us to become interactive and can be very exciting. We spend our time on the Internet rather than reading.

To solve this predicament we must discipline ourselves and get back to old fashioned reading. The trick is achieving balance in our lives.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 11:42 AM
There are a lot of good sides to google which should be obvious to most people, but the dark sides are easily missed so thanks for pointing some of them out.

Google lures us into a false sense of being able to "know" anything we want at the click of a button. But reading about wine does not equal drinking the wine, and after 10 000 pages on a certain taste of wine you still dont know how it tastes until youve went ahead and drank it.

So some of us mistake information with experience and become information-junkies, "learning" more and more and more but nothing with any real depth.

Anything you WANT to believe you can find confirmation for somewhere in the internet.

Conclusion: We should learn at school how to use the Internet in a responsible, sensible, intelligent manner.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 11:59 AM
reply to post by Skyfloating

An interesting point there, sky...

I wonder exactly how many of us here are self taught when it comes to using computers and the internet.

I know I am.

Yes, I'd used a few BBC computers at school, but nothing anywhere like what we have today. I learnt to handle software and hardware to solve my own computer problems. Learning to search for the information to help me do that was a big step too.

School, and parents, can only teach you so much. You comment on knowing wine but never tasting it is a prime example of this exact problem.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 12:09 PM
It is definitely not making us stupid, rather just very lazy and somewhat giving us ADD (attention deficit disorder). We have information from all over the world within our finger tips, we have no need to take the time to research all the information at a library or other resources. Books are becoming more and more futile since we can search for any subject within the matter of 1 minute.

According to a new study, on average people usually read at most 28% with every web-page visit. Source.

On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.

We've known since our first studies of how users read on the Web that they typically don't read very much. Scanning text is an extremely common behavior for higher-literacy users; our recent eyetracking studies further validate this finding.

The only thing we've been missing is a mathematical formula to quantify exactly how much (or how little) people read online. Now, thanks to new data, we have this as well.
The Research Study

Well, enjoy reading about 28% of the article.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 12:31 PM
Actually, this is something I've been thinking about for a long time.

I used to be able to sit and watch TV at night. A movie maybe. And by this I mean, sit, do nothing, just watch the movie.

I cannot anymore. Not since about 1996 when I became very active on the internet. I've noticed a very distinctive difference in the way my brain works. I'm simply used to multi-tasking. It's as if there's a level of stimulus and input that my brain has been 'trained' to expect.

I've actually been thinking of taking up meditation, in order to balance and retrain my brain.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 12:33 PM

I'm guilty of scanning text too, though i do read more deeply also.

Scanning text is something that psychologists are taught to do.
The basics of it is to pick out what's important.

ie. you will miss out small and highly common words like 'the', 'and' if' 'it' etc.

so instead you focus your attention on keywords that express what's really going on.

looking at this post as an example, a 'scanner' would see this..

"guilty.. scanning... read..deeply... (you've just recognised the word scanning and text so you can skip any further reference) ..psychologists..basics..important...highly common...focus..attention..keywords.''

So there you have a brief scanned run down on what that portion of the post was saying. This method is great if you need info fast. You can re-read the post later to get any finer points from it, or in case you feel that what you've got has been written in a manner your unaccustomed to.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 12:37 PM
i don't know, google has been nothing but a godsend for me, i am able to do research at lightning speed, television on the other hand, being a less interactive experience i would say defintely dumbs people down...

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 12:42 PM
It's not just Google though, it's all websites. The layout and the speed of access to information. Our brains are getting used to finding out what it wants to know nearly on demand. Books and films force us to wait and we seem to feel impatient... I don't know, it just interests me greatly.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 01:09 PM
It may be the simple reason that the internet is nothing more than a massive interactive book.

Not only is it full of information, false, fictional, fact and fun, it's also full of people. You can talk directly to authors or specialists.

You can get help or tips on getting a problem fixed on your car before spending hundreds in a garage that may not fix the problem...

Libraries do not offer this.

And consider the cost of buying a book to being online for a month. Some books (content irrelevant) can be read in a day yet cost $30.00 or more...

That's two months of net connection fees for some people...

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 02:20 PM
I'm sure that Google search lists change constantly, depending on key words, tags, hits, etc...

But I believe searches are filtered, and steer away from relevant hits quite often. If the google tech is so superior, why do I get better results using the comparatively and evidently inferior search engines? Not to mention the "opt out" type succubus that seems to attach google to installations such as Flash, default.

In my opinion, google tries to force complacency by repetitiveness, just as any propaganda or brainwashing machine or campaign. I wish there was a google stake that could be used to dispatch google as Buffy would use on a vampire.

It somehow seems at times like the near-miss programming of a computerized gambling machine. I swear it will skirt topics so that specific links seem to yield to links that are extremely relevant but for the one key word, whether it be manufacturer name, date, or other specific search which the resulting allocation is an irritating tease, yet sucks you in like an addict searching for that next and better high, (or in this case, that perfect link).

Is it just me? I've never inquired, but if so, good for all the rest of you.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 06:39 PM
My attention span has decreased also thanks to the internet. I use to read a lot of books and now not so many.
Books take longer while the internet gives instant info.

Truth be told I skip long posts on any forum most of the time.

edit - Just wanted to add that I watch a lot less tv because Im on the internet and listen to more online radio. So things like google for info has to be better than tv.

[edit on 14-6-2008 by leearco]

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 07:03 PM
I've never thought about this before. I do still read books without any problems. I believe Google does make us smarter. If you have a question needing answered, just Google it. Depending on what you are asking, you can get thousands of responses. And in lightning fast speeds depending on your internet connection.

I have internet capability on my cell phone. My best friend is 30 years older than me with no knowledge of how the internet works. He brings up some question while I'm at his house. I Google it on my cell phone and "hello!" Instant answer!

I don't have to go to the library while wasting gas. I don't have to waste my time looking up the relevant book. I don't have to waste my time looking through that particular book to find the information I need.

Google is making us smarter at a faster rate in my opinion!

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