Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Google intelligence

Is Google making us 'stupid-er'? Or is it changing the brain in a way that can't be defined under any common descriptive? I would elect for the latter. 

As Nicholas Carr, the author of Is Google Making Us Stupid?, writes "In deciding when to eat, to work, to sleep, to rise, we stopped listening to our senses and started obeying the clock". This is of course in reference to the widespread use of the mechanical clock, and its large influence on practical human thinking and practice. The comparison can obviously be made between the implementation of the mechanical clock (and its influences) to the widespread use of the internet for vast amounts of media (television, news, reading, etc.). As one might assume the two massively used inventions are similar in the way they alter human thinking and perception. In 2012 I unfortunately feel the need to check my phone for messages (that I probably haven't received), check my Facebook (which I have done multiple times while writing this first paragraph) and really just surf the web pointlessly. Why do we feel this way? The answer is because as useful as the internet is, as much as it can decrease stress and time wasting, it promotes it just the same. 

Unlimited tabs? More like unlimited distractions. The ease of access the internet allows is amazing, however, it promotes attention deficiency. Why focus on the nitty gritty of an article (and thus truly understand it) if another article with a catchy title is literally flashing in the sidebars of your window? It's just impossible. 

Now, the interesting theory I came away with after reading Nicholas Carr's article, has to do with the rising citizens of America, and their learning. How can we expect a generation that has known nothing but the speedy access of information and overly consuming amounts of that information to sit down and focus? Or to be able to read an entire novel, let alone understand it. Having done things heavily both before and after the electronic boom (within education) I find that I now have immense trouble focusing on things for too long, a problem I know has grown alongside my internet use. How can I expect my students to learn the way I did 10 years ago when I know that it's not how the world operates now (or how I operate now), let alone how it will operate when they're expected to be a functioning part of it. 

Within the writing of this article I have 
1. written (of course)
2. Checked my facebook
3. Sent emails
4. Received emails
5. Sent text messages
6. Looked up the African American population of North Carolina 
7. Sent a mass message to the other members of my fellowship cohort

and somehow I still feel as though my work is satisfactory. I know I will have read it two or three times over before I hit the pretty orange button up at the top that says publish, however I have multi tasked immensely. Why? Because all of that was so readily available to me. The screen I'm staring at practically begged me to 'look at this' 'check that' 'message them' 'laugh at this'. Who knows how the general population will react to this temptation as it will seemingly only begin to get bigger as time goes on. 

-Andy DeCola


 "In Technics and Civilization, the historian and cultural critic Lewis Mumford  described how the clock “disassociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.” The “abstract framework of divided time” became “the point of reference for both action and thought.” "

The clock’s methodical ticking helped bring into being the scientific mind and the scientific man. But it also took something away. As the late MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum  observed in his 1976 book, Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, the conception of the world that emerged from the widespread use of timekeeping instruments “remains an impoverished version of the older one, for it rests on a rejection of those direct experiences that formed the basis for, and indeed constituted, the old reality.” In deciding when to eat, to work, to sleep, to rise, we stopped listening to our senses and started obeying the clock.

The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.

The Internet is a machine designed for the efficient and automated collection, transmission, and manipulation of information, and its legions of programmers are intent on finding the “one best method”—the perfect algorithm—to carry out every mental movement of what we’ve come to describe as “knowledge work.”

The company has declared that its mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It seeks to develop “the perfect search engine,” which it defines as something that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.” 

In a 2004 interview with Newsweek, Brin said, “Certainly if you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you’d be better off.”

It’s in their economic interest to drive us to distraction.

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