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Is Google/Internet Making Us Stupid?

Last year, pundit Nicholas Carr made the case saying Google was making us stupid. And that happened about a year. Since then, other authors had pitched in to take the discussion to higher levels. The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture by Andrew Keen, e.g., shows how communications revolutions disrupt old behavior. In book The Dumbest Generation, English Professor Mark Bauerlein writes that Internet "stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future." Canadian James Harkin argues that we’ve all ended up Lost in Cyburbia, "a peculiar no man’s land, populated by people who don’t really know each other, gossiping, having illicit encounters and endlessly twitching their curtains."

But wait to hear Jaron Lanier, in his new book You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, he argues that our cybermania is turning us into autobots programmed with a love of totalitarianism.

All this discussion comes after Carr, in his article, argued that the ease of online searching and distractions of browsing through the web were possibly limiting his capacity to concentrate. Remember though, that cited authors grew up in a different year than the Gen X. You probably saw a kid performing different activities at the same time and you are not able to understand how he manages to do that. This is happening in most families without parent realizing it. How do they get going with cell phone, iPod, TV, laptop and homework, all at the same time?

I would like to agree with Lanier and Carr but until I see definite research, I will resist to think that multitasking is making us - or our children, stupid. Until now what we have is the expert opinion and surveys.

This approach takes me to the old dilemma: what was first the egg or the hen. Google and the Internet are the medium and both can make us stupid and intelligent at the same time. I support what Marcel Bullinga, a Dutch Futurist at futurecheck.com believes: In the future, we will live in a transparent 3D mobile media cloud that surrounds us everywhere. In this cloud, we will use intelligent machines, to whom we delegate both simple and complex tasks. Therefore, we will lose the skills we needed in the old days (e.g., reading paper maps while driving a car). But we will gain the skill to make better choices (e.g., knowing to choose the mortgage that is best for you instead of best for the bank). All in all, I think the gains outweigh the losses."

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