Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Yes Butch. In a way it is. Reading, unlike watching television, requires active engagement. It is difficult. It takes work. Back in the day, when people only had books, they probably took their time reading. Absorbing each turn of phrase, each idea. They had plenty more time to reflect.

Admittedly the ubiquity of information these days- terabytes of it - on the internet is making us concentrate less on reading one article or one website even. Probably because we know there's so much more information to be had out there. We want instant gratification. We want it. We need it now.

So, is the machine dumbing us down for that revolution which will take place some time in the future - humans versus artificial intelligence? Haha. Maybe so. Guy Billout of the Atlantic writes:

But a recently published study of online research habits, conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information.

They found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site. Sometimes they’d save a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it.

The author admits to not having read a book in a while. Read the rest of the article - longish - and see if you can stick to it.

According to my library records, I took out 255 books last year. I find that if I only read PDFs, it is quite difficult to concentrate. But when I have a book on hand, it calls to me - it is warm and solid - unlike the coldness of my computer screen. For worrywarts who think they are getting dumber because of the net - just have a real book nearby. Your talisman to ward off the devil.

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