In Nicolas Carr’s essay “is Google making us stupid?” I was struck by the debate about whether the internet is making us (more) stupid. Carr certainly thinks it is. He claims the internet is making us lack concentration, lose our intellectual capabilities, change our way of reading/writing, and even change the way we think outside of the realm of the internet.
Let me try to pick apart and question Carr’s claims. First of all, the yo-yo probably caused some outrage in the 1930s when it popped onto the toy shelves; parents were probably screaming about how Tommy Jr. wouldn’t pay attention at dinner because of it. How is the internet any different from any other thing that supposedly causes lack of attention-span?
Secondly, if anything, the internet is making us gain intellectual abilities. The internet can be the world’s greatest teacher if you let it. A school in Africa with just one computer can offer its students a world encyclopaedia that before would’ve only been accessible through expensive books. Maybe the internet is only making those who already considered themselves “intellectual” less intellectual? As Carr says, before the internet, he would troll through libraries to find sources and now he uses Google. But, even then, does that make us stupid, or just more efficient? Or maybe even smarter? I don’t think a cave-man would pass up the opportunity of a lighter for stick-rubbing.
Thirdly, of course the internet has changed our ways of reading and writing! It’s a new medium, and so our way of writing and reading must necessarily adapt to it. The more important side of Carr’s point is, though, is that the internet, he claims, has changed how we think outside the realm of the internet. I don’t feel like the internet Big Brother is in my head all day…but I could be wrong…. who knows what subconsciously influences any of us? Does it matter?