Who would have thought that not only the computer, but internet, and the access it provides would become as fast, and limitless as it has become today. Just like the universe, the internet, and its content, is expanding exponentially. Every day, internet users are caught in the stream of endless content - new and old - all accessible with just the click of a button. There is literally nothing a savvy user can’t find on there. But does having such a vast amount of content at our fingertips make us smarter? By the end of this paper you will see that the abundance of information on the internet IS making us smarter.
ACCESIBILITY OF QUALITY INFORMATION: KNOWLEDGE IS KEY
In no other time in history has information been so easily available to people – class notwithstanding. Sadly, for much of the world’s history, especially in the west, only scribes and scholars had access to written material. Not only were the majority of the populace blocked from reading any material, but even if they were able to get their hands on a text, they couldn’t read it. As the old adage goes, “Knowledge is power”. How can keeping people illiterate make them more any smarter? Thankfully, most of our society is literate, thus, having internet access provides a gateway to knowledge. And not just one source of knowledge, but whichever of the cacophony of sources one would like to access. The net is full of lectures, articles, and videos from experts, top university professors and laymen who are well informed and eagerly sharing their knowledge – and mostly for FREE. Anything a person wants to learn can be found on the net just by searching it on any search engine. Many people are capitalizing on the great resources available online, earning degrees, learning from professors of schools they’d never get into - which brings me to my next point
ENGAGING THE MIND
The internet engages people’s minds in ways the traditional systems of education and learning cannot, keeping users interested. By simply clicking their mouse, internet users can be instantly transported into an academic world they never thought possible, and just from the comfort of their own home, on a PC, laptop, iPod or smart phone - for as much or as little time as they desire. Moreover, they can choose the source, teacher and medium they would like to learn from. Some people learn better using a different method of teaching, or by a different medium. Some find one teacher more engaging than another, one medium more accessible than another. In the academic world a student doesn’t have choice in these matters and must work with the options the school gives them. Since internet users are able to have a choice in who teaches them and how, it encourages the proper mindset. And if they get tired of a method, or teacher, they can essentially discard them and find another. It may be an ego centric learning process, but it keeps them interested and thus engaged. Another way the internet is able to engage with people in ways tradition schools cannot is that it easily connects people in a global and immediate way. This allows people to see, and learn things from different cultures perspective, as well learn how to engage with other cultures. It makes for a more well rounded and informed, cultured individual. This brings me to my next point by way of illustration.
For some, only having a high IQ, a bachelors or masters degree, or a title before your name demonstrates intelligence. So unless there are more people getting degrees by way of the internet, folks aren’t getting smarter. To them Glenn, though he has attained some type knowledge, is still an idiot. I agree that having a college degree does demonstrate intelligence, but it’s not the only measure. There are tons of graduates with degrees doing menial jobs that have nothing to do with what they learned in school, and are still struggling to pay off their school loans. Some are making it, but for others bankruptcy is just around the corner. How smart is that? Did college make them smarter? If so, than the great number of law school grads, 150-200k in debt, working entry level jobs in unrelated fields are geniuses. Is it smart to work so hard to achieve a goal and no reward? Even college is barely making people smarter. I’m sure the students learned something in between the weekend parties, bowls games, and hazing, but it certainly wasn’t financial planning. Some might say the internet is making people dumber because of the amount of useless information available. I agree that much of the internet is e-waste. YouTube has its share of net garbage, but people are smart enough to know what pure entertainment is and what’s truly educational. Yes people waste time watching video after video of people doing things their college experience should have purged out of them, but people have liberty to waste time on entertainment, but that doesn’t make them any smarter or dumber. I think the best argument against the net making us smarter is that the greatest effect the internet is having on our minds is that when we surf the net, we tend to we skim the surface of information rather than go deep beneath the waters of hyperspace. It could possibly hinder our ability to think critically, concentrate and contemplate for long periods of time. These are all invaluable skills that are a fundamental to developing one’s mind. However, this may not be a bad thing, but actually a shift in how we use our brains. We now are able to process large amounts of data at high speeds. We have become great at multi-tasking, and shifting our focus quickly. These effects are changing the way we think and processes data. So really, the internet is still making us smarter but in new and exciting ways .
In 2013, we are now 20 years into a new renaissance period - the Information Age - the dawn of the computer and its partner the internet are in full effect. However, its full impact has yet to be seen. It is changing us, and the way we interact with our world and each other; increasing our knowledge and changing the way we view the world and ourselves. Most importantly, it is making us smarter. With quick and easy access to all types of information we are more efficient, faster learners, able to process tons of information at one time. As we progress towards a more “connected” and “plugged-in” culture, these skills will rightly prepare us for the future.