Nick Carr has an intriguing essay in the latest issue of the Atlantic that asks “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”
For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded.
But, he says,
… what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
Carr argues the deluge of interlinked, ever changing information on the Web is reshaping how our brains operate. Deep reading and contemplation are falling by the way side as Google’s search algorithm presents all the world’s information to us with “industrial efficiency.”
Yet I’d also argue Google’s search engine is anything but efficient. Forget the fact that whole industries have sprung up to game the system (clickfraud, dummy websites). Too much weight is given to newly updated sites while the results skew geographically depending on where you’re searching from. Basically Google doesn’t help me find what I’m looking for and it’s turning my brain to mush. Great.
Anyway, the Carr piece is a good read. Though be forewarned, it’s a whopping four pages long!