Great thread, Yossarian! I think the internet has changed and is changing the way we think, though I'm not convinced it's making us dumber.
So many good points have been brought up and I want to address them all, all at once, with links to related information and pictures and quotes and
YouTube movies and....
One thing that was mentioned is the "scan-reading" statistic. It's interesting, because it's a technique I learned to deal with books, not
Internet reading, so I don't consider it internet-specific. Seeing only 28% of most pages doesn't, in my opinion, mean you're getting less
information as long as you process enough to stop and read 100% of the relevant ones. Some one else gave a really good example of how scanning works
for me, too (I forget who it was, sorry).
I returned to college last year, 15 years after I first graduated. I have discovered something I never expected: I prefer to read my textbooks online
now. I don't have to deal with the weight, or torn pages, or having four fingers in the book as I refer back and forth between the glossary, and an
illustration, and the part I'm reading, and a related part from several chapters back ...
In that case, the internet (and the model of information-seeking it has enabled) is improving my ability to assimilate information.
Literature, I still prefer to read in book form.
I confess to adoring Google (and other search engines that I use for particular subjects), and I consider myself to be very proficient with it.
That's one of the keys, I think. And I really hope that it's being taught in schools today, because I doubt they still teach the skills (card
catalogue lookups, bibliography searches, Social Sciences Citations Index searches, etc) that gave me the skills that I now use to weed through the
Google results. Because often, if I just use a one-word search, I won't get a really good source until several pages into the list.
One way that I think the internet has definitely changed us for the better is that it gives us the feeling that we can find things out for ourselves.
The skill level might not be up there yet, but I believe that will grow as the new ways of thinking are shaped. It means that we don't have to accept
what one "authority" tells us, because we can search the Internet on the topic and have instant access to authorities who see the matter
In a way, I think the attention problem could be compared to someone who, having spent his life with only one book, is suddenly let into the Library
of Congress. Of course it's hard to focus at first, when there's so much to explore.
But I think that as humanity adjusts to our new technology, we will preserve spaces in our lives and minds for examination also. I think people need
The only thing that really concerns me is that we are losing our ability to differentiate good information from bad information, since we can no
longer tell much of anything by its packaging.