Is Google Making us Stupid? Let’s Find Out!

951 words | 4 page(s)

Some have argued that Google is making people stupid. Nicholas Carr, for instance, argued in his article for The Atlantic that Google and its new era contemporaries are changing the way people think, and in essence, making us stupid. Carr argues from personal experience and from limited conversations that he seems to have had with friends, a collection of individuals who appear willing to entertain little more than Carr’s own opinions. His evidence is mostly anecdotal, but he does cite some studies that suggest the web – with Google and all of its influence – has changed the way people think and interact with information online. While it might be true that there have been changes to the way people think, we are not necessarily becoming stupid. Rather, it might be that our heightened capacity to handle multiple topics at one time is actually making us smarter. In addition, Google puts the power of knowledge at the fingertips of each and every person, giving a person the ability to read and learn from perspectives around the world in a matter of seconds.

The author’s primary argument is that with the advent of Google, people are no longer apt to sit down and digest a long article. Rather, people have come to engage in a reading culture where summary and soundbites are most important. People read in order to get the central information that they need. They spend, at most, a few minutes on an article, while they would have spent much more time in the past on that same article. The research does suggest this, but the author is missing something important that links the premise to the conclusion. If one assumes that his proposition is correct and that people are spending less time on each individual thing that they read online, this does not necessarily lead to his conclusion that Google is making people stupid. Rather, it just suggests that people are spending less time on each article. There are many explanations for why this might be the case.

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For one, it could be that people are becoming more adept at distilling the information that they need into a few key concepts in a quicker time frame. After all, it is distinctly academic and perhaps naïve notion to assume that in each article that is published, all of the information is relevant or necessary. Even the most conceited of Harvard-trained academics may admit that in every article, there is some information that is just not necessary for understanding the main point. While it is every writer’s goal not to include this kind of filler, authors are still human, and because they are still human, they often do things that are less than optimal. This is the case with articles published both online and in print. People could simply be getting better at seeing through these things, instead scanning quickly for the information that they need in order to make informed decisions in the future. This does not mean that people are getting stupid. The opposite could very well be true, with people having a heightened capacity to scan and pull out key concepts. This could be a new form of intelligence.

Likewise, one must look at the flip side when considering the effects of Google and Google culture. The website provides a wealth of information in a format that is very easy for people to digest and find. With its algorithms, the website has been able to take the entire wealth of knowledge on the Internet and put it into a searchable format where people can find high quality, relevant content in a matter of a few seconds. When one thinks about this, the effects can be quite startling. Think about the case of a person who wants to learn about marketing. Right online, there are case studies from some of the best professors in the world. There are lectures from men who get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to teach Ivy League students. Simply put, the capacity to learn anything is right online. Just because a person does not spend hours digesting a single article does not mean that person is becoming stupid. It could mean, instead, that the person is becoming smarter, spending his or her time on multiple subjects instead of having to focus on just one thing.

Ultimately the author’s proposition is very interesting, but it is not necessarily correct. There are changes going on in the way people think, read, and tackle information. Google has been at the center of this, and as people continue to do most of their reading online, more changes like this will inevitably occur. It is important, in light of these facts, to recognize that change does not necessarily have to have a negative connotation. Doing things in a different way might just reflect the fact that society is developing in order to take full advantage of the opportunities that technology has afforded. Over time, this could mean that society is becoming smarter and that people are capable of handling even more knowledge than they have in the past. This contradicts the author’s point, and it is worth considering by any person who wants to know more about this issue. Google has the power to make people smarter rather than stupider, putting the wealth of human knowledge only a few clicks away.

  • Carr, N. (2008). Is Google making us stupid?. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, 107(2), 89-94.
  • Sparrow, B., Liu, J., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). Google effects on memory: Cognitive consequences of having information at our fingertips. science, 333(6043), 776-778.
  • Wellmon, C. (2012). Why Google isn’t making us stupid… or smart. Hedgehog Review, 14(1).

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