Is Google Making Us Stupid? (Technology and Intellectualism)

In his article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Nicholas Carr argues that the Net has been helpful in accessing information but is increasingly making people retrogress in terms of efficiency and quality of thinking. The Net has made people lazy as they can no longer read printed materials for a sustained period. When people used to read books, they would “immerse themselves” and have time to reflect (Carr 2008). Today, when they take a book to read, they get uncomfortable and find themselves considering doing something else. Therefore, Google may upgrade to artificial intelligence where the search engine will have the capacity to determine what Internet users want exactly, and provide it.

Searching for online content may lead to lower levels of concentration and contemplation, but it will upgrade presentation and access to higher levels. The migration from printed materials to computer screens has indeed been taken a notch higher. Even security and surveillance companies find it extremely easy and economical to use computer technologies. The display of information on computer screens has been subsumed in corporations; employees make computer presentations involving statistics on the company, the competitors and the industry. The presentations are made possible by not only the availability of simulation software and knowledgeable personnel but also information regarding trends, competitors and the industry. The current working force is more knowledgeable than before and can easily access online material. Teenage students can also conduct research quickly, thanks to the Internet. In a recent study, 65% of teachers agreed that the Net has made students more “self-sufficient” researchers (Harper 2012). Carr (2008) also notes that the Internet has made it easy to get related information as hyperlinks are always available. Managers of websites also correct information from the users’ screens and send advertisements. The Internet is, therefore, characterized by distraction. Since the hyperlinks are mostly about related information, they tend to propel Internet users toward them. This scenario relates to my experience. I find myself getting advertisements and hyperlinks of information I have previously searched on the Internet. In addition, it has become easy to get additional references as I conduct my research online. In a recent study, 99% of the subjects agreed that the net enables students to access a variety of resources” (Harper 2012).

Although the information systems may upgrade to more advanced levels of access, human beings will determine how they will use the technology. There are many ongoing projects that aim to control the use of the Internet. For example, the development of anti-plagiarism software and widespread institution of property rights have helped to curb plagiarism and access to confidential data, respectively.

According to Carr (2008), the Net is not only diminishing people’s capacity for concentration but also contemplation. It has made people want convenience, naturally. The reading done on the Internet is characterized by quick browsing and browsing of large unrelated volumes of material. Essentially, people’s reading patterns on the web are not only changing, but they are also changing the way users think. In fact, the creation of an artificial intelligence or a perfect search engine will translate into easy and quick browsing. In essence, it will also mean reduced level of contemplation (Carr 2008). Internet users will be discouraged from engaging in slow, concentrated thoughts and leisure reading. The quick fixes of information makes people suffer from information overload yet most people will be knowledgeable in a variety of subjects. The Net will continue to discourage deep reading; it means that people will not think deeply too. Maryanne Wolf argues that deep reading is indistinguishable from deep thinking (Carr 2008). In the future, people will be filled with the pride of wisdom rather than real wisdom.

The desire by Google founders to make surfing easy and quick is an attempt to “systematize everything” (Harper 2012). The essence of “the perfect search engine” is one that “understands exactly what people mean and gives them back exactly what they want” (Carr 2008). The scenario might be possible as can be deduced from my own experience regarding the use of the Internet. I have severally searched for materials online. Although I may not get the exact information, I get related information. Sometimes, hyperlinks about other related information will appear. In essence, I can research about a variety of topics or issues and access online institutional libraries with ease. In light of these advantages, there are consequences. For example, peer-reviewed journals may not be readily available. It can also be more costly to access them than when using printed journals. According to Harper (2012), a recent study shows that students find what they need so quickly that they do not use a substantial number of sources to conduct their research. The number of websites that give the exact information that users look for is increasing. For example, when one types “How to get appropriate references”, there will be several websites offering quick answers.

The intention of Google to create artificial intelligence is in essence treating information as a kind of commodity, a functional resource that can be processed with industrial efficiency. According to Carr (2008), the assumption that man would be better off if his brain was supplemented or even replaced by a smarter system is unsettling. Many areas of communication have been automated, but the failure of some systems has led to crippling of industrial or government operations. For such operations to run smoothly there needs to be a fusion of human creativity and automation. Google founders assume that intelligence is a consequence of a mechanical process, a chain of discrete stages that can be identified, measured, and optimized. Carr links Google to Fredrick Taylor’s “system” that established what would be done, where it would be done, and for how long.

The nature of Internet access will make Google and other companies benefit greatly economically (Carr 2008). It is indeed rare to open a website without finding pop-ups, advertisements and service-review pages; most people find these nagging. These developments have great potential to distract the youth. In a recent study, 87% of teachers said that today?s technologies creating an ever distracted youth (Harper 2012); 64% of the respondents said that the Net had already distracted the youth affecting students’ academic pursuits. Corporations are seeking clever methods of advertising products to youthful consumers. Some corporations are even conducting illegal surveillance on consumer’s interests and purchase history to formulate promotional strategies. These companies are then sending promotional magazines and messages to potential customers. Many historians such as Hieronimo Squarciafico had predicted that printed materials would result in intellectual laziness and make people less studious, thereby weakening their minds (Carr 2008). There may be skepticism about the role of the Internet in the formation of intellectually lazy people. However, there will be much more advantages associated with increased access. People will be knowledgeable about societies, the environment, corporations, the law and human rights. They will no longer be subjected to humiliation or exploitation resulting from naivety. An increased demand for information credibility will drive researchers to provide valid data. It will also make academicians and researchers renegotiate with learning institutions and online selling companies in order to sell learning materials at lower rates than before.

The current technology is giving people more time to focus on other productive activities. As noted above, it allows people to make attractive presentations. The use of Google maps, GPS technology and Google Earth has enabled individuals to access locations and locational data with ease. There is a reduced use for maps and other directional materials. The efficiency associated with the use of directional, demographic and locational data has also enabled individuals, corporations and governments to save money. For example, it is easy to plan pilot projects, trips and case studies. Technology is making most employees lazy as they can communicate with others and search for information during company time. Consequently, there is the likelihood of reduced productivity and poor results. There are numerous ways that can help control the use of technology. Corporations can make public information affecting the industry easily accessible. They can monitor the use of the Internet and limit searches. In addition, they can discourage unnecessary use of company time to attend to private conversations. Companies can also encourage the use of credible printed sources to get information regarding the industry. This way, people will not depend on the Internet to get all the answers to their puzzles. According to Carr (2008), the Internet is “becoming the map and the clock, the printing press and the typewriter, the calculator and the telephone, and the radio and TV”. Reducing the reliance of the Internet for such purposes requires continuous motivation.

Conclusively, the use of the Internet has led to distraction. Today, there are higher access levels to information. It is debatable whether the Internet has caused individuals to be less knowledgeable and intellectually lazy. Technology saves time and resources and enables people make attractive presentations. The likely disadvantages caused by a possible creation of artificial intelligence will be diluted by the increased attempts to provide credible information. The overreliance on the internet can be reduced through self-discipline and institutional law and motivation.