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Does the internet make you dumber/smarter?

WSJ has two duelling articles on whether the internet makes us dumber (Carr) or smarter (Shirky). The argument Carr makes is that we are turning into shallow thinkers, while Shirky’s argument is one of linking current changes in information to previous revolutions in literacy and information access. Carr focuses on present research. Shirky asks us to trust that the patterns that have occurred in the past will repeat in the future. Carr states that existing research provides growing insight into the negative cognitive impact of the internet. In this instance, Carr’s argument is more cogent and Shirky exhibits a paucity of thought not worthy of the topic. Shirky, while offering the very silly statement that “the essential insight of the scientific revolution was peer review” (which it wasn’t – the essential insight of the scientific revolution was transparency of method and data, permitting duplication of experiments to counter superstition…peer review existed in the church well before the scientific revolution), fails to move beyond offering a post-dated cognitive cheque (i.e. in the future we will see that these changes really are good). Carr, 1. Skirky, 0.
See also Jonah Lehrer’s post on The Shallows

One Comment

  1. Kim Brown wrote:

    After reading the two articles, I can see validity in each. Is the Internet making us smarter or dumber is an important question to ask. The amount of information on the Internet is endless. You can view/learn as much information as you choose. By the same token, it serves as a constant reminder of the amount of information we don’t know. In addition, if you continue to search, you can usually find different opinions on the same topic, just as was done in this situation. That is why it is so important to verify information and to only use credible sites. The fact that anyone can post anything on the Internet is mind boggling. How dare someone post information that is incorrect. You know the age-old excuse, it was on the Internet so it must be true. Those that beleive that statement are the ones where the Internet in, in fact, making them dumber.

    Kim Brown

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Permalink