Read this article
and then come back.
on] I AM SO TIRED OF THESE "TECH IS MAKING US STOOPID" ARTICLES! The
wrong-think in here is extraordinary. First there's this gem:
"The gap between a question crystallizing in your mind and an answer
appearing at the top of your screen is shrinking all the time. As a
consequence, our ability to ask questions is atrophying."
It is? How do you know this? Is there research that suggests that we're
less able to ask questions? Is there a link you could share? Or did you
not know how to ask Google the right question to find some research on
And this fun bit...
"But knowledge doesn’t
just fill the brain up; it makes it work better. To see what I mean, try
memorizing the following string of fourteen digits in five seconds:
74830582894062. Hard, isn’t it? Virtually impossible. Now try memorizing
this string of fourteen letters: "lucy in the sky with diamonds." This
time, you barely needed a second. The contrast is so striking that it
seems like a completely different problem, but fundamentally, it’s the
same. The only difference is that one string of symbols triggers a set
of associations with knowledge you have stored deep in your memory."
AAARGHHH!!! So much wrong! So very not! First of all, let's please not
conflate "information" with "knowledge" or "memory." Three different
things! And the lyrics to "Lucy in the Sky" were already in my head!
ARRGGHHH! So I didn't need ANY TIME to memorize it. But even if it were,
memorization is also not information or knowledge.
closes with ye olde chestnut that humans should do what we're good at,
and computers what they are. He says, "Wikipedia and Google are best
treated as starting points rather than destinations." RIGHT. THEY ARE.
ALMOST ALWAYS. Because the answer to my question (the information) is
going to relate to one of two kinds of situations.
impact-free curiosity. This is the realm of IMDB and a lot of Wikipedia
queries. "Who was that guy in 'Home Alone' with the shovel?" or "What
was the name of Herod's wife?" These are questions for which the
information itself is, generally, the desired end result. I'm not going
to do anything with that information besides just know it. Maybe it's
for something that will stick, maybe not. The only difference between
doing this online vs. old school is speed and convenience.
Questions asked because you will be using them to accomplish something.
For example, "Recipe for gluten-free birthday cake," "Directions to
Pittsburgh from Columbus," "How to get grease out of a tie," "Where to
shop for ladders," "What should I weigh?" etc. etc. In each case, the
information (if used) will be part of a series of activities that will,
together, generate knowledge. Because knowledge is information in a
useful format. For example, if I get a good recipe and don't make the
cake, I have not increased my knowledge. I cannot tell you if it is
truly a good, gluten-free cake. Nor if it's a cake at all. Nor how hard
to bake, how expensive, how nice it smells. Once I bake it, though, I
have knowledge of the value of the recipe.
And that's a good way
to understand the difference between what Google can do for you and
what it can't. Google can find recipes. Only you can bake a cake. Google
can give you some information (some good, some better, some awful, some
wrong). Only you can turn it into knowledge.
Here's what I
resent about articles like this, however. The conflation of these very
different mental tasks absolutely ignores the cost (in time and money)
of acquiring information in the pursuit of knowledge. Now, I'm not
talking about "question 1" type stuff above. If you want to be an expert
on a certain type of information, memorization and long-form research
will be key. If you want to lecture on a topic, you need to know it in
your own widdle haid. But if I don't know that there are (for example)
freeware alternatives to Photoshop, I might spend a LOT of time and
money saving up for Photoshop, only to find that it doesn't help me. The
quick answer to the question, "Are there free alternatives to
Photoshop" will free up a lot of my resources to actually DO THE
KNOWLEDGE GATHERING THING (image editing) that I'm interested in.
Yes. There are types of thinking that we should all pursue. Yes.
Curiosity is important. Yes. Deep, frustrating, interesting problems
require that you practice doing deep, frustrating, interesting research.
But helping me find the nearest gas station or the expected weather in
Chicago is not going to atrophy my creativity or invention.
FWIW, they said the same stuff about teaching "regular people" to read
back when the printing press came out. Since farmers and peasants etc.
have no need for school learnin', why would they waste their time on
books? I translate this sentiment into modern times by asking, "Since
many working people's jobs don't require deep knowledge of arcane
details and trivia, why should they have access to a tool that allows
them 'easy' answers they don't know how to earn on their own? They
should have to be scientists and inventors to know that stuff."
In closing, if you think you can learn how to play an instrument, drive a
car, have better sex, etc. from the Internet, you're already dumb
without Google. To learn things, you have to do things. All Google,
Wikipedia, IMDB et al do is remove some of the friction from gathering
the necessary parts to START learning. [/rant]
PS: I've NEVER
been any good at memorization and I've never had a bit of trouble
(either pre- or post-internet) doing creative, layered, long-form
thinking. The two are categorically different activities IMHO.