Google is “making us stupid” by contributing to a rising trend of superficial thinking. In this case, the definition of stupidity is based on Nicholas Carr’s belief that Google reduces our intellectual power by narrowing our focus and processing ability, which may alter the structure of our cognitive processes as we adapt to technology. This narrowing of thought impacts our critical thinking abilities, which contributes to our increasing dependence on technology. The combination of superabundant information and the decline of patience and slower thought may be creating a situation where we are passively watching as “our own intelligence flattens into artificial intelligence” (Carr). We seem to be moving towards a model where we lazily substitute Google’s ideas for our own, consuming instead of creating.
Society is moving from a multidimensional approach to gathering information to depending on the Internet as our main conduit of information. The advantages (ease of use, instant availability) seem attractive, which leads to widespread adoption, but the interface itself may limit our intellectual capacity. As Carr observes from media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s work, “media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought” (Carr). Because reading is not an automatic skill for humans, but a learned behavior, our flexible brains may well be building a different cognitive framework to process the new format. The short formats we prefer to read online can therefore influence our thought patterns to be similarly abrupt.
When we develop the habit of consuming large volumes of web content we therefore diminish our “capacity for concentration and contemplation” in favor of processing information at the same rapid pace we receive it digitally (Carr). The Internet’s impact on thought may be huge because our overall exposure is rapidly growing. We are increasingly consolidating our information sources, forcing the Internet to be “our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV” (Carr).
Traditional media is then forced to format their materials similarly in order to catch our web-shortened attention, which reinforces the dumbing-down process started online. So we now respond to commercials studded with Twitter hash tags, print ads with bar codes that our phones will let us watch instead of read, and newspapers consisting of tightly edited collections of “easy-to-browse info-snippets” instead of formats that encourage us to read and process more slowly (Carr).
As we immerse ourselves further into the rapidly moving stream of information, we cease to reinforce the mental frameworks that enable us to process complex thoughts. This constant barrage of data could lead us to replace complicated, more abstract thoughts with truncated, easily processed ideas, just as Nietzsche’s adoption of the typewriter made his already...