Is Google Making Us Stupid?


The ghost of Marshall McLuhan lives on in a recent article by Nicholas Carr in the Atlantic Monthly.

Carr poses the question, Is Google Making Us Stupid?

No it isn’t, unless we let it.

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About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on June 16, 2008, in Diversions, Learning, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. u need to elaborate more than that.

  2. Stupid, no. In fact, I have probably increased my knowledge because of Google. It does make me lazier though. I turn to one index as my source of information, even though the information is very spread out. I think of it as the best index in a huge library. Good thing for shabbat, or i wouldn’t be looking things up in books at all.

  3. Whoa-ho, SMG returns after a bout of radio silence! We’re back to our Meme Menagerie a Trois ..

    Ok, Benzo, to answer your request on elaboration, I’ll start with two questions:

    1) Did you read that entire article from the Atlantic Monthly, before you responded to my post with “u need to elaborate more than that” ?

    2) Have you read through that entire article since then, even including now that I’ve posed this question?

    You don’t need to actually answer those questions. My point is simply that we’ve got this amazing technology — call it Google, call it the Interwebs, called it (as McLuhan once called it) an extension of our central nervous systems — and it’s up to us to decide whether or not we want to maintain the intellectual patience and curiosity necessary for reading through long, contemplative written passages, like that article.

    SMG — props to the sabbath. ah, the leisurely serendipitous offline reading experience… reference books are the best. hardcover encyclopedias might be obsolete, but they’ll never kill the Oxford World Atlas… and the Random House Unabridged Dictionary…

  4. hehe, i actually did read the article at the time u posted it. (sorry to disappoint you 😉

    it brings up the good old “technological advancement is making us mentally recede”… yet at the same time, it acknowledges socrates was shortsighted.. nice balance, kudos to mr carr.

    _you_ bring up the point that u can actually use technology without suffering its ill effects. this implies you will attempt to put down ur thoughts on how McLuhan was shortsighted. I’m seriously interested.

    smg, great point re: sabbath. it’s kinda in the direction i was interested to see the above point elaborated: how to maximize the benefit from technological progress and minimize its ill effects. specifically: google/internet.

    we’re from the generation that saw the birth of the net. we know of a time before the net: a different lifestyle. with the advent of the net, we threw ourselves to it. we let it shape us. we didnt take a little break or a step back to see what we were jumping into.

    it was exciting.

    the newer generations don’t know of a pre-net time. the net just is. it’s not a lifestyle, it is an unquestioned part of life.

    a little digression, when this: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=6a6_1176066336
    came out last year.. i was a bit worried. but today, it no longer seems to be an issue btw, i think.

    at first, i was worried too many of my net eggs are in google’s basket. i’m still not 100% comfortable with having all my emails and pictures stored on their servers. i’m not too crazy about the fact that there’s no straightforward/easy way to locally back up a gmail account. but im over all that. it’s my problem not google’s.

    today, to me, the main problem with google is the fact that it is not making us stupid, but boy does it have the potential to make us biased. we no longer question google. google is always right. what google presents is what we take for truth. whatever appears on the first page of the search is what matters, everything else can’t possibly be worth reading. google decides that for me, and i don’t question it.

    are the kids born in the post-net era better placed to question what’s given to them? maybe it’s our enthusiasm with novelty that made us overlook our healthy skepticism?

    at the risk of being preachy: “knowing the limitations of a tool allows us to use that tool to its full potential”.

  5. You guys are making my blogging job easy — thanks for the insightful elaborations.

    Regarding for the generational thing: A few months ago I visited one of my old college professors, with whom I did some experimental, “hypertext” Web 1.0 work in the late 90s. I asked him if any of his current students were carrying the Net Torch, and he replied along the lines of your comment: Kids these days, they don’t know from not knowing the Internet.

    Yes, there’s an old saying, “If you want to know about water, don’t ask a fish.” But I don’t buy this completely. Not everyone of “our generation” (not sure it’s actually a generational thing, more like a degree-of-late-1990s-WIREDness thing) was thinking critically about electronic media. Critical thinking, to me, means not just fear/criticism… it also means creative challenging, tinkering and testing of new forms, new ways to do things. It’s about medium awareness. In a way, it’s what artists have always done — they work with the media they have to augment their messages. Whether the surface is canvas or a cave wall, whether you use a brush or charcoal (or a printing press, or campfire stories), the effective artist/communicator utilizes the medium’s intrinsic qualities so that the message and medium work together.

    As for challenging McLuhan, that’s beyond the scope of this post. In brief though: He painted things with a broad brush (or rather, simplified matters in order to achieve pithy sound bites) and was heavily informed by a particular chapter in American advertising history (the transition from radio to television, with mass audiences and cultural homogeneity). Even still, he was a provocative thinker who crystallized a lot of relevant (and irreverent) thoughts we can still learn from.

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