Blogs » Pop Goes the Culture » Is Google making us stoopid?


You know those Microsoft Bing TV commercials where someone asks a simple question, such as, "Do you like cheese?" and the response they get is something along the lines of:

"Cheese, Wisconsin, the cheese state, Cheeseheads, bologna and cheese sandwiches, my bologna has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R, The 59th annual Oscar Awards, Chupacabra 3: The Musical" (shameless plug, I know).

Well, it seems art (if you can call a commercial art) is imitating life. Apparently, the Internet is rewiring our brains and how we process information, according to this article in The Atlantic and it's not necessarily a good thing.

We've all heard the stories before of how in this day and age with an abundance of information available at the push of a button, it's giving us all ADD and making us...oh, look, a new e-mail alert!

Well, you get the point. But this article by Nicholas Carr looks at the phenomenon a bit deeper and discusses evidence that our dependence on the Internet is actually rewiring our brains and making deep reading and contemplation (you know, where you used to sit down with a book and read for hours...not sending a text or email the WHOLE time) harder for us.

“We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged."

Of course, the article does go on to say that there are always the "sky is falling" people any time a new technology appears. Socrates was worried writing would ruin people's memories and when the printing press was invented, people wrung their hands because they believed so much access to information would lead them to become intellectually lazy.

But still, just in case, I fully intend on sitting down tonight and reading a book (for you kids out there, a book is a kind of Web page, only printed on paper).

And I'll take comfort in the fact that I was able to read through the entire article, which was rather lengthy, and I only checked my e-mail twice. OK, three times. OK, four but still, I think there is...oh, hey, a new Twitter alert!