The way the internet has changed our lives over recent decades has taken a great deal of criticism. Many people argue that the loss of face to face communication is making us socially inept, that our reliance on instant information is making us not learn new things, and that the constant availability of entertainment is making us lose focus. However, journalist Clive Thompson makes a case that technology is making people smarter in his book, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better.
One of his main points is that scholars can work together on cutting edge research. When Darwin was researching and writing his theory of evolution, he didn’t know that other people were doing the same research at a different place, but at the same time. Thompson’s point is that technology has drastically improved collaboration. The quality of research can be improved by people coming together based on what they find online. Collaboration also improves the speed of research. While it took Darwin two years to release his research, the internet allows scholars to publish findings instantly.
Another point that Thompson makes is that the interent creates an “ambient awareness.” By this he means that seeing the way one person tweets, can be mundane, but it can also offer a fantastic look into how that particular person thinks. Even if internet reduces face to face communication, the way people post on social media offers personal knowledge in its own way
Socrates thought that writing would dumb our society down because we would stop us from having to use our minds and remember everything we possibly could. I do not think that Socrates could have ever anticipated the technology we would posses today. One of the issues brought up in the novel is human memory in the digital age. Clive is partially in agreement because he thinks that recording only makes us forget sooner. However, when discussing his his conversation with Thad Starner, who carried the prototype for Google Glass, Clive thought that the eye computer added to the conversation rather than take away from it. Thad was able to access notes from years past and bring them up for his conversation and Clive was more distracted by his phone than Thad was from the eye computer. This new technology enables us to store every ounce of knowledge we can throughout our life and then sort through it. The problem is that we have to be able to manage this properly. That will be the struggle in the next decade or so.
One of the questions posed was, “in this new digital age, how are children learning to write?”. Our society is increasingly relying on electronic text versus hand written. Kids are now texting, tweeting, and instant messaging rather than picking up a pen. Although this may sound like a negative concept, it actually has its benefits. Historically, it was challenging to get children to write because they had no audience. Normally they were writing for a teacher who was paid to grade their work and that was that. With today’s new technology and social media, kids have an audience. Whether it is posting a status to friends and family or creating their own personal blog, there is someone there to see their work. According to Clive, kids have started writing more than any generation ever has in the past.
Is technology actually making us smarter?
What is the difference between information and knowledge?