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Education The Internet News

Does the Internet Make Humanity Smarter Or Dumber? 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-sure-does dept.
Nemilar writes "The Wall Street Journal is running a pair of articles asking whether the Internet is making humanity smarter or dumber. The argument for smarter is that the Internet is simply a change in the rules of publishing, and that the bad material is thrown away; the second story critiques the 'information overload' aspect of the Internet, claiming that we have traded depth of knowledge for velocity and span. What do you think? Does the Internet make you stupid?"
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Does the Internet Make Humanity Smarter Or Dumber?

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  • by ls671 (1122017) * on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:17PM (#32469464) Homepage

    Of course it can easily make you dumber, just like TV can make you dumber. The similitude has become to apply after 1995 when big players (telcos, etc.) became Internet providers and when companies and marketing agencies have become to realize to potential of Internet as a marketing tool and viewed it as just like another tool similar to TV.

    Don't get me wrong, it is still possible to use the Internet to get smarter or at least more informed but given what I observe, it for the typical Joe user that uses it in a way comparable to a modern T.V. where you can play games running on the cable company hardware, it makes him dumber.

    You could be surprised by how many people are proud to announce breaking news to me because they received an chain-email containing a ridiculous story that takes me about 30 seconds to debunk. The most worrying part is that they actually deeply believed it before sharing it with me.

    Some people believe anything they watch on TV and read in newspaper. Nowadays, a lot of people believe anything they see on the Internet just like if they had seen it on TV.

    Well to their defense, this is the way it was marketed and sold to them by the big players, just like an extension to TV with very low emphasis on educating people about the technology, security, etc.

     

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by w00tsauce (1482311)
      Arguing on slashdot makes you ________.
    • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:35PM (#32469614) Homepage Journal

      The TV makes people (especially kids) dumb, because it is an impoverishment of the senses: Without touching, smelling and hearing (signal is not timed correctly) the brain development is stunted. The brain always learns, but we offer it shit. Ask a neuroscientist like Manfred Spitzer [google.com].
      The Internet (as a media) is great at distributing information, and helps freedom of speech, protection against regimes&suppression.
      But don't overlook that information is not produced on the Internet. Anyone who want to contribute something new, will perform a lot of "offline" thought and work first. Progress doesn't come from the thousand monkeys on a typewriter.
      Don't just take them away, replace them with some better use of your time.

      NB: The message above might reflect my opinion right now, but not necessarily tomorrow or next year.

      • by ls671 (1122017) * on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:00PM (#32469808) Homepage

        > The TV makes people (especially kids) dumb

        I am sure TV can be used in a limited manner (say 30 mins a day) to teach kids something. Unfortunately, you may have to search a bit or design your own programs since mainstream programming might not fit the bill most of the time.

        As you mentioned, it is easier to use the Internet in a "filtered way" where you actually use it to enhance yourself. My point was that the typical Joe user isn't aware of this or that he is not interested is doing this, just like some TV users like to watch realty shows and sitcoms.

        Some other posters have mentioned that the Internet is just making dumb people dumber and smart people smarter. In the end, it is the same for TV ;-)

      • Progress doesn't come from the thousand monkeys on a typewriter.

        See subject line.

        After all, monkeys can already type out stuff that, to the untrained eye, is indistinguishable from perl, or a loss of carr#%^%^%(*_)*&)(*!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sznupi (719324)

      Any medium of communication will appear dumber in the process of shedding what is essentially its elitism. But better means of communication is what has provided us with advances of civilisation.

      "Wise elders" were whining at emancipation, combating illiteracy, "mass produced" books, telephone or radio, too.

    • by icebike (68054) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:38PM (#32469646)

      Those people announcing breaking news due to chain email would have been the same ones telling you aliens landed in the next county because their cousin knows a guy who knows a guy.....

      They have always been here, and the internet has no effect on them. It didn't create them. But it quickly helps you prove them wrong.

      More importantly, the net helps us access knowledge quickly, meaning we don't have to know tons of unrelated facts, all we have to know is where to find those facts.

      That used to require trips to the libraries. Now its the Net.

      The net teaches us to be very good at discerning bullshit from true facts, which is a valuable thing.

      • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:32PM (#32470032)

        They have always been here, and the internet has no effect on them.

        I call bullshit. Having the ability to get a message out to millions of people before it can be debunked is a giant effect on what they're saying.

        • by icebike (68054)

          Ah, the truth gets out JUST as quickly, if not more so.

          Zero Sum Game.

          • by Jeremi (14640) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @03:54PM (#32470862) Homepage

            Ah, the truth gets out JUST as quickly, if not more so.

            "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes" -- Mark Twain

            ... and the reason that is true, even in the Internet Age, is because the speed at which a story travels is proportional to how interesting it is, not how true it is. The truth is sometimes interesting, but often boring; whereas a well-crafted lie will always be interesting, and thus always propagate quickly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "The net teaches us to be very good at discerning bullshit from true facts"

        No, the 'net doesn't teach us anything. We teach ourselves, as and if we choose to expose ourselves to knowledge and choose to incorporate it into how we experience and process our existence.

        More specifically, while "the 'Net" can be used to debunk falsehoods, it doesn't *teach* discernment. That still involves a capacity for critical thought and an interest in not being easily susceptible to bullshit. Just because the 'Net off

        • by icebike (68054)

          Having fallen for one hoax, nearly everybody LEARNS (is taught) not to fall for subsequent hoaxes and becomes fairly good at detecting them after a while.

          If you want to beat me up about some technical definition of the word teach, well, hey, the internet is great for people like you too. It protects you from the rejection or physical insult you would experience doing this in person. Prior to the internet, people exhibiting pedantry of your level had no friends. Oh, wait, that hasn't changed either.

          Zero s

    • by sqldr (838964) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:52PM (#32469752)
      I'm currently procrastinating by reading slashdot when I should be working. Then again, I went online to look up SIMD instructions in visual studio, and I now have the information I need. Swings and roundabouts.
      • by IICV (652597) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @02:15PM (#32470268)

        Are you really procrastinating? Would you have done ten minutes of work if you hadn't spent ten minutes on Slashdot?

        In a more general sense: do you work as efficiently during your second and third hour at work as you do during your sixth and seventh?

        We have this weird obsession with working when you're at work (I know that sounds silly, but still) - you simply can't work full blast all the time, and it's weird that management insists that people pretend they do for eight, nine, ten hours a day.

        Honestly, I think that's at least part of the reason why we've seen such an increase in productivity since the advent of computers - they provide a great way to pretend you're working, so you can take a break and work more efficiently when you do actually work. I'm not even trying to be funny with this comment; I seriously do think that the increase in ability to occasionally goof off without repercussions has increased total efficiency.

    • I remember very well that when I was connected at 56K, I used to waste my limited online time downloading programming related documentation for offline usage. Of course I was a kid looking for programming experience just for fun.
      Now at cable and DSL speeds, I feel high-bandwidth contents (audio, video) are more in the role of wasting people's online time. I cannot however draw any conclusion since 56K and DSL are to very distinct times of my life.

      What do you /.ers think? Is high-bandwidth internet promoting

    • by mobby_6kl (668092)

      It's confirmed, The Internet Makes You Stupid [somethingawful.com].

    • by blind biker (1066130) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:06PM (#32469836) Journal

      The similitude has become to apply after 1995 when big players (telcos, etc.) became Internet providers and when companies and marketing agencies have become to realize to potential of Internet as a marketing tool and viewed it as just like another tool similar to TV.

      Actually, I do think the Internet makes some people dumber: they can write such grammatically atrocious sentences as yours, and be totally inarticulate, and still get a pass, while those who point this out (like me) get flamed for doing so. Therefore, dumbness is rewarded.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, I do think the Internet makes some people dumber: they can write such grammatically atrocious sentences as yours, and be totally inarticulate, and still get a pass,

        This is because he actually provided thoughts and insights on the topic at hand and sharing them successfully with other human beings.

        This 'dumb' thing as you call it is what most humans live for.

        while those who point this out (like me) get flamed for doing so.

        You provide nothing useful (and before you say it, neither am I right now) and somehow think that is 'smart'?

        Very little was lost in translation when the GP did not follow your language rules, and a perfectly wrong lie can be grammatically correct with proper spelling just the same.

        Therefore, dumbness is rewarded.

        Yet you point out how someone (GP

    • by Pharmboy (216950) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:07PM (#32469850) Journal

      I would disagree and say that *on average* it has made people smarter. Instead of having to go to the public library, it is faster to find information, do research and get answers. More importantly, it allows people to get multiple answers quickly to compare.

      As to those that it is making dumber: If not for the internet, they would have been watching TV anyway. Some people can't wait to graduate high school, because then they can "quit learning", and they succeed in every way. Before TV, there were plenty of other opportunities to "do nothing", or at least, nothing worthwhile. Those people wouldn't learn new things even if they lived inside the Library of Congress.

      As for regular people, or those with a thirst for knowledge, it has accelerated their ability to find answers and make it more entertaining and less of a drudgery (ie: faster to search in a browser than a card catalog, AND find the books, AND the right page...) I can't tell you how many times that I have looked something up, then found an interesting link, and ended up learning about some tangent idea as well. Yes, I did the same pre-internet, but net has allowed me to do this regularly, as in depth as I care for, and from many sources. At 45, I watch much less TV than 20 years ago, and spend a great deal of time learning, simply because it is fun and easy to do. I can't be alone in this.

      • by Urza9814 (883915)

        I'm not so sure that being able to look things up quickly makes you smarter. I do think it has the same net effect though. I mean, I would know a _lot_ more about programming if it wasn't for the internet. But does it matter? If I had to look up functions in a book, I would have them memorized. But when I can just pull up the javadoc or whatever at any moment, then why bother memorizing? I feel like I know less than I would without the Internet, but I'm still a better programmer than I would be without it.

        O

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Wait. Can TV actually make you dumber? I can accept without hard evidence that TV can displace beneficial avenues for learning, thus making you more ignorant (among other things), but actually dumber? Does it have some kind of profound effect on our synapses of which I'm not aware?

      I mean, maybe it's true. Maybe watching television makes you less intelligent, but I was hoping someone could source a study on the issue.

      • by robot256 (1635039)

        The brain is a muscle just like the rest of the body. If you don't exercise it regularly, it atrophies. If you spend all your time passively watching television, you are not exercising your brain and it will become more difficult perform mental tasks, thus making you dumber.

        On the other hand, if you spend your free time attempting to compose cogent and grammatically-correct arguments on /. you will use at least a few brain cells in the process.

    • by jez9999 (618189)

      Of course it can easily make you dumber, just like TV can make you dumber. The similitude has become to...

      tl;dr.

    • Both (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LoverOfJoy (820058)
      Some people will use the net to become more informed. Others will use it to zone out and learn less than they might have otherwise. For most people, the internet will both increase learning in some areas and increase intellectual laziness in others.
    • by fyngyrz (762201) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:49PM (#32470142) Homepage Journal
      • 99.999% of television is utter, irredeemable crap
      • Almost all televised news is so light in content, it would float in a hydrogen atmosphere
      • Schools routinely "graduate" kids who can't read, write, spell, or do math
      • Kids consider "tweeting" and "text messaging" as adequate communication
      • The US promotes a superstitious culture -- and consequently the majority of the population can't apply critical thinking worth a darn.

      The Internet, in sharp contrast, is rich with content of very high value, easily accessed by anyone with even moderate 'net skills and literacy. The problem is if you come in with the average set of skills our culture and our pre-college school system provide you with, you aren't equipped to take advantage of that unless you did a lot of self-starting as well.

      Anecdote: Recently, I interviewed young folks for an internship; what I wanted was an ability to read and write at a decent level, use a spelling checker, and basic (+-*/) math skills. I went though over ninety applicants before I found one. Over ninety!

      But they all had lots of experience in in high school sports. And someone -- most assuredly not me -- had told them this would count for something. Maybe if the job is ditch digging, it would, but not in an office environment.

      Slashdot is a collection of people so atypical - so skilled as compared to the average US citizen - that I can't even imagine comparing how they process tv and schooling as compared to the average citizen. When we ask here how television affects someone, we're asking a group that's already been selected for way above average skill sets. For instance, if I watch Fox News, I spend the entire time either laughing or shaking my head in disgust. But it's the most popular news broadcast in the country.

      To paraphrase Phil Plait, it seems as though we're doomed.

  • False dichotomies. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by radarsat1 (786772) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:18PM (#32469476) Homepage

    > What do you think?

    I think false dichotomies make good headlines.

  • by masterwit (1800118) * on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:20PM (#32469494) Journal

    Check out dis funny picture of cat. [icanhascheezburger.com]

    Actually I think it reveals our stupidity.

    But the real issue here is that the article doesn't really address "Does the Internet Make Humanity Smarter Or Dumber?". Instead it should be entitled: "Does distraction, largely in part to the internet, make some individuals process information differently?". Sure distractions are always "bad":

    When we're constantly distracted and interrupted, as we tend to be online, our brains are unable to forge the strong and expansive neural connections that give depth and distinctiveness to our thinking. We become mere signal-processing units, quickly shepherding disjointed bits of information into and then out of short-term memory.

    But does a fragmented short term memory have permanent effects? He talks in the article about

    In another experiment, recently conducted at Stanford University's Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab, a team of researchers gave various cognitive tests to 49 people who do a lot of media multitasking and 52 people who multitask much less frequently. The heavy multitaskers performed poorly on all the tests. They were more easily distracted, had less control over their attention, and were much less able to distinguish important information from trivia.

    To me, what led those people to do media multitasking in the first place? Perhaps the media did not engineer some level of "multitaskness" (not a word, I know) but that this multi-tasking ability was inherent to those individuals' respective personalities. This brings be back to my first point that the internet reveals our stupidity AND perhaps just our personality in general.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Moryath (553296)

      After watching the coverage of the Israel/Gaza situation and the Terror Flotilla this weekend... it definitely makes people dumber.

      There is no sense of scale and no memory of past events any more. In January 2009, the UN security council passed a resolution calling for ALL nations to step up efforts to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into Gaza. The sum total of responsibility for this, sadly, was passed on to Egypt and Israel, who dutifully stepped up their blockades and inspections (Egypt actually clo

      • by tsm_sf (545316)
        So it's the flavor of the bullshit you buy that makes you intelligent. Ok, got it.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:04PM (#32469824)

        It seems the past was forgotten by the people of Israel as well. They are on their way to repeating the discrimination and hate that was done to the Jewish population of Europe.

        Today in Israel there is the non-Arab Israeli and then there is the Arab Israeli. One group has more rights in the state than another. In a healthy state, there would be an Israeli citizen, Arab or Jew or Christian, or whatever. All would have the same privileges, eg. ability to get building permits. But in the real Israel, all I see on the news is Arab Israeli homes being demolished because of "illegal housing" (that was built in 1960s, for example, but authorities just found out 50 years later????). New housing permits continually are denied to the Arab Israeli, while non-Arab Israeli are able to secure housing permits. This is especially true of Jerusalem. I am not even talking about occupied land here.

        I see hate and terror of of "Israeli settler" illegally occupying land, *backed* by Israeli Army. I see counter-hate of Arab extremists, but these don't have the army on their side.

        So please, do at least a normal analysis of the situation before you judge. Israel is not 100% victim here. Extremists in Israel are allowed to continue their discrimination, and this causes extremists to be formed in the groups being discriminated against. In plain words, they are creating the shitstorm that surrounds them and then they are crying about it.

      • it definitely makes people dumber ... There is no sense of scale and no memory of past events any more ... It seems that the collective memory of the world lasts only a few days, and then past events are forgotten

        Careful here. How sure are you that things were better before the internet? What evidence do we have that these dumb people didn't exist before the internet, let alone that the internet caused their existence?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ph1ll (587130)

        it definitely makes people dumber. There is no sense of scale and no memory of past events any more

        On the contrary. It allows us to see the history of Slashdot posters such as yourself. Take this gem:

        Regarding Islam: "Why is it that showing pictures of a 7th-century pedophile who started a death cult is somehow "offensive"? The whole fucking religion is OFFENSIVE" [slashdot.org]

        Or this pearl of wisdom:

        "Islam is fundamentally evil ... the 7th century death cult, it doesn't mean shit to me." [slashdot.org]

        You like that expression, eh? Take you a few hours to come with it, hmm? And who can forget the classic:

        "...even M [slashdot.org]

      • by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @04:46PM (#32471164) Homepage Journal

        coverage of the Israel/Gaza situation and the Terror Flotilla

        No, tell us how you REALLY feel.

        The raid was condemned by the UN; and Israel offered to truck in what they seized. To me, that doesn't sound like Israel found any proof of terrorism on those ships, and neither does it sound like their acts were clearly correct in the eyes of those in the know.

        doorstop-IQ losers who parrot whatever they are told.

        What about doorstop-IQ losers who systematically demonize one side of a conflict and absolve the other of all wrongdoing?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      To me, what led those people to do media multitasking in the first place?

      They did. They chose to do it. Information technology gave them a choice -- a freedom -- and they did not use it responsibly and through no one's fault but their own. You can give people powerful tools but it's ultimately up to them to use them responsibly. Right now here is what I'm hearing, "I'm stupid and distracted ... it must be that latest technology's fault like TV and gaming and now the internet. I'm the victim and don't have to take responsibility for my actions." If I give you a nail gun and

      • by IICV (652597)

        They did. They chose to do it. Information technology gave them a choice -- a freedom -- and they did not use it responsibly and through no one's fault but their own.

        Why are you saying "fault"? It is clearly something they think of as a benefit. Yes, the multitaskers perform more poorly on cognitive tasks - however, there are many cognitive tasks that don't require great performance. On the other hand, they experience more than the less-frequent multi-taskers. They're basically willing to give up single-thr

  • Double Edged Sword (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:21PM (#32469498) Journal

    Does the Internet Make Humanity Smarter Or Dumber?

    I tire of constantly pushing the idea that the internet is a double edged sword. It liberates you to pursue your desires whether they be learning, information, socializing, games or porn. In this liberating spirit, I claim it is possibly the greatest revolution yet in regards to information.

    Now it's just your choice to use it as you desire. And anyone who says they will only ever use it for something like learning is flat out liar and, frankly, missing the point of the internet. I waste time on the internet and I am productive on the internet. Use the full spectrum of the internet and you'll get the most out of it as what it is: a tool. The choice is yours ... time management for people has been an issue going all the way back through human history. Why must we stop now and act like 100% of our time must be spent on the internet playing Farmville?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by H0p313ss (811249)

      I tire of constantly pushing the idea that the internet is a double edged sword.

      Agreed, I suggest we start a whole new meme: "The internet is double headed dildo."

  • It enhances (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:22PM (#32469506) Homepage
    The internet just enhances what is already there. Stupid people become more stupid and intelligent people become more intelligent.
  • by Das Auge (597142) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:22PM (#32469512)
    No technology is good or bad. Neither does it make you smart or dumber.

    I don't watch a lot of television, but when I do, I watch Discovery, The History Channel, or Animal Planet. I tend to learn something new every time I watch.

    Now, if all you watch is reality TV and sitcoms, you're less likely to learn anything. Once again, it comes down to personal responsibility.
  • I think.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vistapwns (1103935)
    The idea of the internet making you stupid is the stupidest idea ever. I now have the worlds information at my finger tips, I get updates in near real time. For instance new cures and new science that is published, I now read within hours, instead of months or years later in some book. Granted, if you're a stupid person the internet can be used for stupid things just like anything. Couch potatoes glued to the boob-tube in the old days are equivalent to today's myspace and facebook junkies. But still the
    • Re:I think.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:27PM (#32469562)
      Yes, but if you can look things up, then why bother to think about it? A large part of why some people are smarter than others is that they think about things, the ability to look up things without critical thinking is definitely not going to make a person smarter. It can in fact have the opposite effect in that since there's no filtering going on, a person can start to believe all sorts of stupid things.
      • Re:I think.. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by yotto (590067) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:35PM (#32469612) Homepage

        I think more critically now than I ever did before the Internet.

        In fact, I'd posit that critical thinking is more important now than ever before. If you are incapable of it, the Internet is a constant stream of kidney-stealing Nigerian princes who will give you $1000 if you forward this email.

        I don't have kids, but if I did I'd teach them first to question everything they're told. By anybody. Including me. And they should start with trying to think up a reason they shouldn't.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mysidia (191772)

        Presumably people are spending some time thinking about what they look up, and following hyperlinks to read more about the subject.

        Due to the inconvenience, without the Internet, they might not have looked up any information in the first place, and gone with a hunch, or whatever they vaguely remember.

        So the internet allowed them to learn a bit about a subject they wouldn't have even bothered to look for information on, otherwise

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by vistapwns (1103935)
        How am I going to think about a vaccine to cure breast cancer, or nanorobotics, without looking it up? I mean I might get some vague idea about such things, but the specific details I could never imagine. I just don't buy that a significant number of people look up things without thinking about them, it makes more sense that they look up things because they want to think deeper about a particular thing. I can't force you to believe me, which is what you seem to want, but I'm sure I'm right for the typica
      • by DeadboltX (751907)
        Looking up facts and critical thinking are not interchangeable. I would say that the ability to readily look up facts on the internet allows one more time for critical thinking because less time needs to be spent on memorization and recall.
        The only problem is that the SNR of useful information on the internet is horrible.
  • Could repeat the question please?

  • Neither (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bat Country (829565) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:24PM (#32469528) Homepage

    It changes the way a person thinks.

    Instead of worrying about retention of specific knowledge, I find myself caring more about how to find information again if I should need it. I've been treating the Internet like an extended memory bank. It certainly adds to my humility and (by extension) my critical thinking skills that it takes only a few seconds with Google to demonstrate the inferiority of my personal knowledge and experience on any issue. Questioning your convictions on any topic often leads to a new way of looking at things.

    Dedicating a moment's thought to it, I don't believe the Internet can make a person dumber, but it can contribute to intellectual laziness - being convinced that the answer is out there if you care enough to look for it could conceivably make you less likely to try to figure something out for yourself.

    • I like the term external memory (with thanks to GITS). I often tell people I work with that I'm not an expert, I don't know hardly anything. But if you give me a terminal with internet access, I can FIND anything, and learn to do anything, at least in the short term. Having good google fu makes me more valuable, not smarter. I do take away small pieces of knowledge every time I do something new, but that isn't the same quality of knowledge that a scholar in previous ages would have.

      ON that note, it'
  • SMRT! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by spammeister (586331)
    Being more informed and more aware doesn't really make us smarter or dumber, just more opionated.
    • Being more informed and more aware doesn't really make us smarter or dumber, just more opionated...

      ... and more informed, of course.

  • It depends (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    When the Internet enables a group of people I agree with, it is making humanity smarter.

    When the Internet enables a group of people I disagree with, it is making humanity dumber.

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:30PM (#32469580)

    Mark Twain once said of newspapers: "If you don't read a newspaper you are uninformed. If you DO read a newspaper, you are misinformed." The internet works the same way.

  • ROTFLMAO! (Score:3, Funny)

    by night_flyer (453866) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:32PM (#32469588) Homepage

    Wuz? R U 4 Real?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by night_flyer (453866)

      Apparently the person who modded this redundant proves that the internet has in fact made us dumber, since he obviously doesn't understand the meaning of redundant.

  • Will get back to you on that question in a sec - first I have to watch these babies impersonating Lady Gaga [gawker.com].

  • but dumber if all you do is "play" facebook all day.

    Intelligent use of the internet, like intelligent use of a library or research facility lets you do more good stuff quicker. It probably also lets you extend your capabilities (though sometimes people extend too far and become burdens rather than assets).

    However, if you're not inclined to use your mental faculties and just want to goof around all the time, the internet lets you waste time like never before. Of course there are poeple at work (you prob

    • "More capable" is, I would say, the most appropriate way of describing how the Net affected me. I became a fluent English speaker because of it. Before constant Internet access, my English was passable. I could understand texts of average complexity, I could express myself, albeit in pretty badly botched sentences. The Internet gave me a lot of reading and writing experience, allowing me to become a fluent speaker over the years.

      Same goes for some other areas. I became interested in programming before I had

  • It goes both ways. With TV, you have the option of using it to educate yourself (PBS, news channels, Discovery, History, etc) or to turn your brain off (soap dramas, American Idol, sitcoms, etc). The only difference with the Internet is that it's (generally) quicker to access and is much more on-demand. If I wanted to learn about my hometown during World War II or something, I could use a search engine and find it. On the other hand, if I wanted to see dancing cats, I could find it on YouTube.

    Actually, I
  • I have a bad memory. It seems to have pointers to memories but sometimes can't retrieve the memories.

    With the internet, I can use the pointer to find what I was trying to recall.

  • I don't think so. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Burnhard (1031106) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:46PM (#32469708)
    In my eminently ignorable view, this is a false dichotomy. The possible options are, (1) smart people are less smart than they would otherwise be, (2) smart people are smarter than they would otherwise be, (3) dumb people are dumberer than they would otherwise be, (4) dumb people are smarter than they would otherwise be, (5) dumb people are neither smarter nor dumber and smart people are neither smarter or dumber, than they would otherwise be.

    Now, it seems to me that people who didn't read before, when given access to intertubes, may gain knowledge they would never have gained previously (I know many people like this), hence they are less dumberer than they were before. It is also true that smart people can become even smarter with access to the internet because they are given access to a much wider and more diverse body of knowledge within which to embed and test their expertise (post-modernly known as Contextualising). Knowledge comes in bundles, but cleverality involves forming associations between bundles. The more bundles you know about, the greater the number of possible associations and transferable metaphors/techniques are available to you to solve any particular problem. The internet does not stop you gaining expertise in any one bundle, it just allows you to gain a greater understanding of the fields surrounding your particular chosen bundle.
    • by Idbar (1034346)
      The real question is... do your hands make you smart or dumb?

      Your hands as the Internet, or your feet are just a medium to an end. You pick the end. You can use your hands to open a book or to jerk off. You can use your feet to go to the library or to go the bar... and no doubt you can use the Internet to read relevant information or useless crap.

      Could we argue the same about drugs or alcohol? That's probably a more interesting question.
  • Anyone can be a journeyman in anything by just looking up the proper info. I remember the time pre-internet and pre-cell phone, and while I remembered more things back then, I didn't have the daily "putting new thoughts together" experiences that I have now. Something that would have taken me a day to answer (or calling a librarian and having her spend an hour), now takes me a couple minutes at most.
  • tl:dr (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mr.dreadful (758768) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:48PM (#32469732)

    Maybe that would explain the growing use of "tl:dr", which is short for "too long, didn't read", which I'm seeing more and more on articles. The sad thing is that most of the time the people that add the line haven't written anything especially complicated or long.People are either getting stupider or lazier.

    tl:dr; author thinks the use of tl:dr is a symptom of people getting dumber.

    • by Mithyx (1532655)

      I think the increasing use of tl:dr is people just learning what it means. Before they would just skip over the article/comment/etc, now they feel the need to use this new snarky comment they learned.

  • by 3seas (184403)

    Compared to what?

    Smarter or dumber?

    Wow, a black or white choice....

    I could have sworn we have a spectrum of living color.

    But I must be wrong, as they said so. But does that make me smarter or dumber to know this?

  • Uh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by binarylarry (1338699) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:57PM (#32469790)

    Did the printing press make us dumber?

    The Internet and associated technologies like the WWW are an intelligence enhancer on a larger scale than that.

  • You can choose to use the Internet to be smarter - search a lot, explore widely and deeply, and let it coordinate your everyday life to unburden that cognitive load...

    or...

    you can become a single neuron in the group-think texting twitter-mind, and spend the rest of your time touching up your facebook image and ogling celebrity gossip sites and cat/fail videos.

    Be the miner or the mined when it comes to new knowledge. It's up to you.

  • by fluffernutter (1411889) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:10PM (#32469880)
    As more people group together, humans make dumber choices more based on emotion then anything else. Thus I think social networking sites are a terrible thing for humanity.

    I think it *can* be a good thing. The Encyclopedia of Life seems to be shaping up well. Wikipedia I think has been neutral. But more often to not people use things like Facebook which is nothing but a waste of time.
  • No, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evilgraham (1020325) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:11PM (#32469892) Homepage
    It certainly draws your attention as to just how many dumb people there are!
  • I thought the answer was slashdot? Bad content can be filtered, and there is an overwhelming amount of garbage. Its the garbage you want, with a filter. Its slashdot, the better internet.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:13PM (#32469912) Homepage

    What the Internet has done is that almost no matter how obscure your preferences are, it's a group on the Internet for it. According to the latest stats there's 1.8 billion people online. Even if one in a million think like you, there's 1800 of them on the Internet. There's language barriers and some other details too, but still. Of course it's natural that like minded people meet, but on the Internet it's so extreme you run into groupthink - Exhibit A [slashdot.org].

    Take for example the coming wave of elderly in the western world. Here on slashdot we have mostly technological/geeky solutions. Doctors for the most part have medical solutions. Economists has some monetary solutions. Each group can think because they all just read their own sites that they've understood what "everybody" thinks and what "consensus" is on how to solve it, in short that they're smart when really their solutions are shallow, unfeasible and incomplete because they haven't been challenged enough. You see it with some computer systems, all the geeks agree it's great but unless you get user testing from somewhere else it very often flops.

    I don't think we've really gotten dumber on the fundamentals even though we search the Internet rather than know by heart, there's much less meaning in memorization and hand calculation but then I never felt that to be a valuable skill in itself - it's a bit like measuring your writings by your fountain pen technique. The real value is what you understand, your ability to draw reasonable conclusions. Knowledge is important because you need to know the facts and the context to draw those conclusions from. It takes different skills because so much on the Internet is bullshit, if ypo put someone who is used to only serious and reliable sources and put online they could end up being dumber. But the younger generation who knows the pitfalls, they can go much further.

    I simply think the answer is that we're getting more specialized, which is neither smarter or dumber - just different.

  • by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:14PM (#32469922)

    First of all, nothing really makes you smarter or dumber. While your capability to learn may change over time, in general a specific type of media will not impact this ability, unless we're talking about parking young children in front of a TV and ignoring them, which is another issue.

    The internet, like TV, books and magazines, radio, etc does not affect your intelligence. What you get out if it is based on how you decide to use it. Spending hours on Facebook playing farmville is a huge waste of time, just like watching American idol, etc.

    Using the internet for other things such as looking up how to do something or a particular fact can increase your knowledge, as can watching a show about history or science on TV.

    Personally I think the WSJ has gone significantly down hill since News Corp bought it...

  • Some problems (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pudge (3605) * Works for Slashdot <<ten.egdup> <ta> <todhsals>> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:16PM (#32469934) Homepage Journal

    The first article doesn't address the notion that these changes in thought patterns could lead to greater intellectual abilities down the road. The author says:

    Only when we pay deep attention to a new piece of information are we able to associate it "meaningfully and systematically with knowledge already well established in memory"

    but maybe that's subject to change over time, as more and more humans don't pay deep attention. Or maybe we will adapt to be able to more easily pay attention deeply to the most important details.

    Additionally, even if that doesn't happen (soon, or ever), maybe humanity as a whole is better served this way. Maybe we don't need everyone to be a deep thinker. Maybe we can benefit from a large segment of people who can think quickly, but not as deeply.

    In other words ... Idiocracy is funny, but unlikely. We will adapt and move forward over time, as we always -- given sufficient time -- have.

  • Subsidizing the fecundity of the stupid does.

  • The web has made a tremendous difference in what I can accomplish. I'm old enough to remember the days when I anxiously awaited new issues of electronics magazines because they presented a steady stream of projects that introduced me to new components and ways of doing things. These days, I often turn to forums, manufacturer's websites and other people's project pages for new ideas, advice and assistance. Over the course of the past 15 years, I've become adept at leveraging a vast pool of knowledge to drama

  • by dgriff (1263092)
    I asked the Yes No Oracle [facade.com] the question "does the internet make you stupid?" and the answer was yes.
  • consider the curious child. before the internet, information came from parents, teachers, library, or the local media. the internet gives access to information on any topic, and also access to people who are interested in any topic. with machine translation, book scanning, special interest forums, and freely available university lectures, it is hard for me to imagine how someone could claim that the internet does not make humanity smarter. the indifferent person will still be ignorant, but the curious p
  • by AlgorithMan (937244) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:34PM (#32470052) Homepage
    http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/02/16/1647213/A-History-of-Media-Technology-Scares [slashdot.org]
    1565: books have to much information, this is too much for the human brain...

    same shit, different medium - there will always be reactionist... move along, nothing to see here...
  • Comparisons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aggrav8d (683620) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:34PM (#32470054) Homepage

    Let us consider two cases:

    • what life was like before TV/the internet
    • what life is like since TV/the internet

    What have we gained as a direct result of these technologies? What have we lost?

    Is it worth it?

    I remember being told to play outside all day - back when we could do that without sunscreen and without getting burned. It used to be that I had to make a plan and stick with it if I was going to meet a friend - I couldn't call them when I got to the place and THEN figure out where they were waiting. I didn't used to be a slave to the byzantine contract or incessant needs of my portable phone (that probably isn't giving me cancer). I imagine libraries were a lot more popular, living rooms were centered around conversations or musical instruments, and if you couldn't sleep you could listen to live performances on the radio. To name just a few examples.

    What have we gained? Well, the space on my desk that used to be for a rolodex/business cards is now taken up with Arduinos & servos. My girlfriend sits up in bed and watches Glee on her iPad instead of finishing her cross stitch. Pinging the hivemind to solve a technical query is pretty damn awesome. uh... everything else I can think of is probably a negative.

    So while I haven't definitively made up my mind, I feel like the evidence I am aware of leans towards "worse off".

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @01:41PM (#32470098) Homepage

    The internet provides more opportunities for being stupid in public.

  • While as a whole it is making access to information much more readily available, it still doesn't alter our brain hardware makeup. Until we start to do that, one can argue that we are still no more "smarter" than our ancestors.
  • It is my opinion that the internet does not affect peoples' intelligence at all.

    What I think the internet (in combination with excellent search engines like google) does, and is pretty wonderful at, is making a wide variety of communication and knowledge available at very low cost.

    Examples:
    When I needed to find a procedure on how to change the clutch on my car, a bit of googling, and there was someone that had done it for my model car, step-by-step, with photographs! It _saved_ me.

    Learning that there was an

  • by FoolishOwl (1698506) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @03:41PM (#32470818) Journal

    Cynical jokes aside, what's most distinct about humans, as compared to other living things, is the human capacity to learn. The mass of the brain is there less for calculating than for acquiring and linking more information.

    We've had an enormous breakthrough in rapidly disseminating information and enabling self-education. That some people make blunders and that some mistaken ideas are more widely circulated does not contradict this. Asking whether the Internet makes us smarter is like asking whether providing light, water, and enriched soil makes plants grow better.

    Years ago, there was an incredibly awful country song, "Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning," by Alan Jackson, with the lyric, "I'm just a simple man/I don't know the difference between Iraq and Iran." At the time, whenever I heard the song, I'd think, "So put the microphone down, go the library, and find an encyclopedia, dumbass." These days, whenever I hear anyone ask a question for basic information -- where is Turkmenistan? who is K. D. Laing? -- the answer is frequently, "I'm not sure -- check Wikipedia," or, "Google it."

    Simple ignorance is more easily overcome than in the past. Willful ignorance is harder to defend.

  • Internet (Score:5, Funny)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @06:58PM (#32471948) Journal
    It makes Humanity smarter but Internet users dumerer.

Mediocrity finds safety in standardization. -- Frederick Crane

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