Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google

A decent article, actually. I tend to disagree with many points, and not just because I am doing research in semantic web and argumentation (which promise to exceed this guy's nightmare, by giving machines the ability to not just organize and dispense information, but to come pretty darn close to actually knowing and thinking).

I have seen first hand how search engines and other forms of easy information retrieval make people intellectually lazy. Sometimes you see term papers written using what seems to be little more than the page pointed to by the "I'm feeling lucky" button on Google. Students copy-pasting entire (and topically irrelevant) paragraphs off web pages without applying any interpretation or discrimination, based on the mere presence of keywords. And of course, Wikipedia being used as a source, rather than an introductory guide.

The written word eliminated our need to receive information through personal contact. Printing made it so ubiquitous that long-term memory was no longer a necessity. Text messaging made literary flourish (not to mention spelling) a bandwidth liability. The accumulating refinement of search technology and the immediacy of information access over the web threatens to eliminate short-term memory as well. When semantic web becomes a reality, to whatever degree, it may even take on some of our more basic roles as information interpreters.

Still, while I agree that we need to get back our concentration and comprehension skills, I don't think the doom-and-gloom is completely warranted. After all, we still have the same choice we had when all the other information technologies were brought about ... we can use our newly liberated mental space to further our creativity (something humans can still do better than machines) ... or we can fill it with crap.

2 comments:

  1. Hmm...will post my thoughts later.

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  2. Haven't run off to Google up an opinion, have you?

    (just kidding)

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