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Is Google Making Us Stupid? Answered

That's the title of Nicholas Carr's latest article (and the cover story) for the Atlantic. I just finished it and it's an interesting article discussing how Google has been reprogramming our brains. I haven't been able to find a copy online yet, but the gist of it is that since the internet makes things so easy to find, we no longer are able to read deeply and critically; we just skim. I found that interesting.

You can check out his blog at roughtype.com.


Great idea! It wasn't the booze, or the weed, or my disdain for education: Google made me stupid! I may use this next time I get arressted! Or maybe I could get on public assisstance (I'm not quite fat enough), and draw a check for my "Google Induced Stupidity"!

Haha. I sorta agree with what you say. It's not making us stupid.


10 years ago

I've comment now and then that the Internet is in dire need of "Library Science." Full text search of everything has it's uses, but it is not at all the same as the sort of catagorization that Dewey applied to books. The "no longer able to read deeply and critically" criticism has been going on for ages, with the blame added at all sorts of new media (comic books, radio, television, etc.) It probably started about the time "the masses" were being taught to read as a matter of course (the percentage of readers capable of reading deeply and critically has in fact gone down.) A complaint usually heard from authors who feel they are underappreciated (or at least that not enough people buy their books.) The way I see it, near-illiterates skimming online internet material is a lot better than the same people not doing any "research" at all...

Well the text searching system does work to some extent google is not a good tool for seaching things for reference and specific materials of research since it sorts but releveance and popularity, relevance to the words you searched isn't the same as looking up a subject, it works because most subjects mention themselvs at some point but searching jet physics will bring up page after page of websites selling or building jets for example...

That's a good point. My brother's not much of a reader, but he learns a lot about his R/C airplanes (how to build them, etc.) from google.

Interesting theory, but why blame Google for a generalization?

Because Google is ridiculously popular, and largely to blame.

The word has become a verb - people do search the web, they google it. If I set a reasearch task as homework, I now have to tell my pupils to make a note of the url, and then deduct marks if the url is www.google.co.uk, because they've not even realised that Google is just a search engine, and the information is actually on a different website. I sometimes even have to ban use of google, and actively require the use of books.

Worse, almost, is the way they land right at a complex answer without having to work up to it. No thought about implications or alternatives. It's top of the page so it must be right.

I once had a parent moaning at me because I gave their child zero marks for a forty-page project on "The Planets". They wouldn't take my reason that the child had handed in forty pages of a website about horoscopes (links and adverts complete!) because they had typed "Facts about the Planets" into Google and clicked the first link. It was on Google, it must be right...

Google isn't making us stupid, it's making us lazy.

I agree with that. ... And is the thing about "The Planets" a true story? There's no way someone did that and left the advertisements in. Very amusing either way.

It's true, hyperlinks underlined in blue and everything.

Well, at least that must have been entertaining. :)

Annoying, really.

. Google doesn't make us do anything. Neither does any other search engine or research tool. It may allow us to indulge our own laziness. It may pander to our desire for an easy answer. But it doesn't make us do anything.
. Your students' problem is not with Google, per se, it's ignorance of how to use it properly. Shall I blame my hammer because I try to use a four pound sledge to drive brads (or a tack hammer to drive 20d nails)?
. And the deal with The Planets is just plain stupidity, having absolutely nothing to do with Google or any other tool. Judging by the parents' response, I'd have to say he/she came by it honestly.

First of nacho, the hammer thing can be done, it's the best game in the world, along with who can cause the most destruction with one swing of a sledgehammer... You know this is basically one massive troll, think about it, the ones it's talking about wont find it and the ones who aren't the problem will... Also look what the hell it did to me at the bottom... I jabbered for some time...

Google isn't to blame though. There are many other search engines, Yahoo, Ask, Dogpile, I forgot the name of the other one on my mind. The increasing usage of Google is lending to the belief that if it is used that often, the first results must be right. I never look at only the first page, I always go through maybe 8 at the least until I find what I am looking for. All of today's modern conveniences haver lead to the increasing percentage of lazy people. Lazy people do lazy things. Now days you just get in the car and turn the key. To drive a Model T on the other hand you have to turn up the gas, crank it till it starts, check that each coil is working by manually pressing each contact down, and to drive it you increase spark voltage and gas on the stearing wheel, then push in the parking brake for more speed(which also changed gears. I probably got the process wrong seeing as it is very confusing. Anyway you get the idea that modern life is lending to the laziness, not google. In fact, I probably shouldn't be on here.

Well, very true. I hate how articles do that, and then it turns out to be something almost completely different.

Wait... Not being able to read deeply makes you stupid? I admit it's a problem but that doesn't necessarily mean stupid. Also, I think for most people, they just skim when they aren't actually interested in the topic, but read deeply when they are.

. I didn't find the article so this may be way off base, but it doesn't make sense to me to blame a tool for being misused. That's like blaming the car when a drunk driver hits someone.

I agree with you on that, and I'm certainly not agreeing with every point of the article. What I think the article is trying to say, isn't that google is making us more stupid. I think it's trying to say the way we think is being re-programmed.

. Well, I use Google a lot, so any opinions I have are probably their's.

Or google makes us smarter and more efficient by just giving us the information we need?

Need, or want? As KJL pointed out in his monologue...

Hmm an interesting point, almost a counter to the likes of 'little brother', read the foreword on the Ebook version...

I almost never read things properly on the 'puter more so because I run a high res monitor and run it at max resolution but also because a book is something physical and tangible, it's sometimes hard to look at something on the web and say 'hmm I see that has amazng implications'...

However when You think about it the flipside is that there is more information at my disposal than there ever was before, and it's at my disposal, right here in a box on my desk, we can learn so fast from the internet, but at the same time we don't actually need to learn from it, bit of a paradox, thankfully something useful is naturally kept in your head, I can't cound the number of times I've skimmed through a web article and been talking about the same subject and been able to shoot out a fact or something about it.

If you look at it one way 'Ibles is a part of this problem, people make things and other can replicate, granted they're supposed to do it and learn a bunch of mindless robot types such as the people that work at Mcdonalds could literally sit and make projects for a power drunken Eric, People also don't have to solve a problem themselves and learn throughout it, they can search and find anything they need, after a certain point 'ibles could almost be comparable to a wiki on DIY, how to do the world yourself will be the last 'ible ever published if what I'm saying is right...

Google isn't making us stupid, it's making us both lazy and efficient, these are a dangerous combination which leads to less thought being put in to things which means:
- More Drinking and drugs
- More divorces (affairs)
- More Crackpot theories
- More pyramid schemes

And so on, because it's getting to the point where information is so plentiful that people needn't think about how to find it, they just ask jeevesy boy, Ok the example I gave are extreme but less time spent doing things enevitably means there gets to be a stage where people are too ahead of what they're doing and have that dangerous thing I like to call "spare thought", it's like free thought, only combined with boredom and whatnot.

Sure as long as there's enough to do we'll be fine, eventually though the age old problem with I.T. rears it's rather ugly head, unemployment, see the more stuff available via a click means less reasearch, less hunting for files, less people doing things, leading to less people working...

Hell Say I owner a web business, ordered all my shopping online, yes food shopping etc. aswell and did everything on a computer, I would never have to leave the house, the most interaction I'd have is accepting deliveries, can you imagine living like that, being able to sit in a house all day and survive?

Well guys, you'll not hear from me for a while, I'm going to go turn in to a raving lunatic hippy that doesn't use 'puters...

Oh wait, I use them so often, they're so handy, hell I can go to tescos and do a weekly shop with the help from a little computer that has all the annoying noises but no pimply chavs manning the till, I am...

Computers however have some serious downfalls, they're essentially machins capable of telling our deepest darkest secrets to the whole wide web - I mean world... With all but a little gentle coaxing, what happens if ISP's can monitor downloads, this wouldn't mean just illegal P2P, this would mean skimming through every single thing you download in a month, this means that you could be bugged through a computer with a phonecall from the thrid party to the ISP, your uploads are just the same, a creepy nerd from the right office could steal your life, then put it soemwhere else just for the craic.

Sometimes I really do fear the path we're all on, seriously, a little thought about it and you could be quite worried...

What may possibly be my longest rant to date is now over, please continue with your normal business, sorry for any delays caused to your life