The Big Bad Google Monster

From the Mind of Woz

Is Google Making Us Stupid?
What the Internet is doing to our brains, by Nicholas Carr
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google, The Atlantic.Com , by Nicholas Carr.

Here’s one for the Luddites!

This article is about reduced attention span cause by Web 2.0 technologies. Nicholas Carr states, “My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages.”

I don’t know, I’m ADD, reading has always been like that for me. Welcome to my world, Mr. Carr. My advice to you is to keep reading and develop memory techniques the people with ADD have long mastered. We read..slowly..and we have to put up with degrading remarks from educators and others without ADD. But, we learn to fit into their world. They never learn to fit into ours. We accept their limited boundaries of thought; they never accept our endless and deep layers of inventiveness and creative thought. Instead, they label us with a disorder. Oh, but that’s another topic, isn’t it? Told you I was ADD. If the Internet is affecting you, adversely; maybe, Mr. Carr, you might just stay off it.

The keyword here is “changing” … “I’m not thinking the way I used to think”. Change causes fear in people. And fear causes people to think of evil, dark ends of gloom and destruction to our quality of life and the existence of the world, itself, “In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

Mr. Carr, as long as there are true educators in this world, we will NEVER become robot-like. Educators will always maintain the standards of critical thinking and quality of life for their students. The educators, that others put down with lame expressions like, “Those who can, do; and those who cannot, teach”, will not let humanity become robot-like. And, my suggestion to you is to hang out with a person with ADHD and you’ll find out that mankind will never become “pancake-like beings” due to a technology or anything else. Again, sounds like you need to turn off the Internet or the big bad Google monster will get ya!

But, thank you for launching this analogy of the destruction of all free-thinking beings on this earth do to Google and the like. It’s a great debate. It’s like Ohio State vs. Michigan football…how’s that for an analogy? Because as long as we can critically think and debate the issue, we haven’t become Hal-like. BTW, Mr. Carr, what’s Stanley Kubrick doing these days? Never mind, I’ll Google it.

PS (Don’t email and tell me he’s passed on…I know it…I googled it.)

4 thoughts on “The Big Bad Google Monster

  1. I can’t believe I’m replying to my own post! This article really gets to me! I wrote this as a reply to my Web 2.0 Epsilen Group forums ….Someone was torn between Mr. Carr’s words and the reality of the classroom … my reply:

    I would rename Nicholas Carr’s article, Watch Out! The Big, Bad Google Monster Will Get Ya! His fear was his diminishing short-term memory capabilities because of Google and the like. I hate to tell him, the short-term memory diminishes with age, not Google. He’s in the news industry and I’ve worked in that industry. Google and the Web have helped the industry.

    It’s our responsibility as educators, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles…citizens in general, to instill a love for reading in our children. My children love to read and my granddaughter’s favorite gifts are books. And, what about those that are visually impaired? Now, with the use of text-to-speech reading software, they can be empowered with the capability to hear the printed word.

    Mr. Carr’s article was typical fear-mongering tactics. If he is having trouble reading because of Google…then he has the choice not to use Google. If we would have listened to Luddites, where would we be? I think most of us wouldn’t exist and the rest would be in Spain worrying about their ships falling off the edge of the earth. And, you can blame Copernicus for proving that the world was round. I just Googled him. I have to get to the office. I didn’t have time to drop by the Millerton library and look him up in the old volumes of The Encyclopedia Britannica. The library doesn’t update their volumes as often as they use to because they recommend Encyclopedia – Britannica Online Encyclopedia. They have a computer hooked up to the Internet and…THE LIBRARIANS GOOGLE! They also read and recommend books to their patrons.

    PS … Is replying to your own posts the same as talking to yourself and answering your own questions? I’m in trouble.

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  2. Here I go again, replying to my own posts. I’ll admit, I’ve been talking to myself and answering ME. My colleague, Chrisie Mitchell, verified that I’m certifiably insane.

    The Web 2.0 Epsilen group is discussing the Carr article. I posted George Siemens’ comments on the article:

    This article – Is Google Making us Stupid – has been receiving a fair bit of attention. The author states: “My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages.”

    The concept of reduced attention span has drawn criticism. Mind Hacks states: “In terms of any new technology, it’s obvious having tools to hand changes the strategies we use to solve problems, but so far, there is no strong evidence that Google, YouTube, Facebook or any other part of the web affects the fundamentals of how we think.”
    While the evidence supporting the idea that we think differently due to technology use may not exist, anecdotal seems to trump empirical for most people…

    Find the Mind Hacks article at http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/06/web_making_us_worrie.html

    Visit George Siemens’ blog at http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/ .
    He sends out a weekly eLetter, sign up at http://www.elearnspace.org/

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  3. I’m posting Michael Keane’s, St. John’s University, response to Nicholas Carr’s article from our Epsilen Web 2.0 group at
    http://Web20Group.epsilen.com . Keane’s teaching interests include literary criticism and fundamental writing. Visit his Epsilen ePortfolio at http://mkeane.stjohns.epsilen.info

    Google and the internet, in the education and academic sense, do not come as a panacea to all kinds of pedagogical or intellectual issues. They make it easier for students and people who want to find an easy way out of scholarship. They also make it less necessary to access data in our brains as opposed to through a web browser. In some sense, the fact that information is more easily accessed makes it difficult to weed out the useful information from the useless; it makes identifying legitimate sources more difficult now that so many sources are available in such a small amount of time. Technology, Google, and the internet do not come without negative side effects.

    But, to suggest that this is a threat to our intelligence seems a bit short-sighted and technophobic. Like someone else has already commented in this thread, math classrooms were at one time threatened by calculators and slide rules were the standard in physics classes.

    Technology does not make people less intelligent–it redefines the value of intelligence.

    There was a time in education where memorizing the Middle English prologue to the Canterbury Tales was considered to be a mandatory pedagogical tool. While some educators still consider this to be important, there is definitely a trend away from this. Why memorize something when I can download the entirety of the Canterbury Tales to my cell phone while standing in the middle of Times Square? You want Hamlet’s speech on his existential crisis? Give me two seconds and I’ll copy and paste it for you. Memory is almost obsolete.

    The face of education constantly changes, and with the ubiquitousness of the internet, technology will be what shapes this change. So, the kind of intelligence that used to be valued prior to the internet will now be reevaluated in technological terms. What is useful technologically? Instead of short-term memory and the ability to really stick with long texts without skimming or scanning being important pedagogically, perhaps what might be valued in education (and presumably when it comes to evaluating intelligence) is the ability to search wide swaths of information for their relevance to current projects. The ability to quickly and reliably find necessary and relevant information, and then incorporate that data into a larger project, is simply more important, and no less valuable in terms of intelligence, in the current state of academia and education. Throw in the fact that information needs to come from credible sources in an ocean of unreliable data and suddenly using the internet effectively is a skill-set by itself.

    So, we should not be afraid that technology will make us less intelligent. We should be afraid that we’re not intelligent enough to keep up with technology and the way it redefines intelligence, pedagogy, and education.

    I think Carr realizes this, and I think he’s fixated on some kind of ethereal and romantic view of human intelligence and function (this becomes quite evident at the end of his piece). He is afraid of humans becoming too mechanical. If he’s worried about humanity becoming more systematized and, in some sense, more like some kind of human-android mix of data and mechanized processes, then he has great cause for worrying. I’m just not so sure that this kind of “posthuman” transformation is a bad thing. – Michael Keane, St. John’s University

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