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Nowadays Internet is becoming an integral part of personal and professional life of millions of people all over the world. This global environment enables easy search of information, sharing opinions, interaction with others, and has many other benefits. At the same time, users face certain difficulties in searching unique information and concentration on a particular topic.
The Internet has numerous advantages and disadvantages. It is unclear whether it makes humans smarter. The current work will try to find a solution to this question by critical analysis of a survey and a number of articles, concerning this matter; it will also provide outcomes of the interview.
Understanding the Problem
The Internet represents the global environment of linked computers, which enables people to share knowledge and opinions, as well as to find information and entertainment almost on any matter. On the one hand, the Internet provides an opportunity to search for omnifarious information and learn about events and places, located far away; on the other hand, it makes finding unique ideas and concentrating on a single topic more difficult, as well as, relying on one’s personal knowledge.
The problem that will be discussed in the current work is whether the Internet makes humans smarter. It is strongly interconnected with the mission of this research report: creating the knowledge that provides clear understanding of the influence of the Internet on human minds. The vision is reflected in performance of critical analysis of relevant sources in order to formulate a grounded response to the identified problem. This can be achieved by means of the following objectives: searching for relevant sources, conducting a thorough analysis of findings, making grounded outcomes, i.e., providing a clear understanding of the effect the Internet has on human minds.
Discussion of the stated problem is started from analysis of a survey, presented by Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie. Reviews of its participants are taken from the official web site of Elon University School of Communications. Moreover, this research report provides analysis of numerous articles. The notion that the Internet makes human smarter was presented by Jamis Cascio. David Weinberg also discussed the benefits, which people can obtain from using the global network. The idea that the Internet has negative influence on human life was introduced by Matt Asay, Nicholas Carr, and Clay Shirky.
Analysis and Discussion
The Internet plays a significant role in the life of modern society. This powerful computer network is “becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV”. The provided data and knowledge can be easily found and used. Research that previously required much time and resources can now be made in minutes. The Internet enables sharing emotions and opinions with people, who are located far away. Open access to the vast amount of information and views makes finding relevant ideas rather difficult.
Moreover, people do not recognize the necessity of remembering information, as they can easily refresh their knowledge by searching in Google or Wikipedia. They are constantly surfing for something new and entertaining, thus failing to concentrate on one particular topic. Service providers analyze users’ activity in the Internet and provide them with commodities, which they would most probably purchase. Thus, it is unclear whether the Internet makes people smarter or not. Critical analysis of the outcomes of surveys, articles, and an interview concerning this topic are expected to help in finding a solution to this problem.
Analysis of Surveys
In their article “Future of the Internet IV” Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie presented a survey of “895 technology stakeholders”, performed by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center. The outcomes show that 76 % of respondents think that the Internet makes people smarter, as users “are allowed unprecedented access to more information”, and 65 % agree that use of the Internet leads to improvement of personal reading and writing skills. They have noted that easy access to information makes its memorization unnecessary. Thus, this ability of human mind remains underdeveloped. At the same time, people became more skillful in quick search, analysis of information, and making decisions: “we spend less time to recall and more time to generate solutions”. Thus, the majority of respondents agree that the Internet makes users smarter.
Analysis of Articles
Jamis Cascio states that the Internet provides sufficient knowledge and space for testing new ideas. It encourages “intelligence augmentation” and “fluid intelligence”. They are reflected in finding the solution to newly emerged issues, independently of gained knowledge. According to the author, the Internet will shift people’s ability from adapting to the physical world to processing vast amount of knowledge.
David Weinberger discussed the benefits which people obtained with development of the Internet. They are the following: access to information about any topic, ability to find likeminded people, traversing knowledge, better perception of opinions which may differ from personal ones, cooperation of among located in different areas, elimination of payment for access to knowledge, easier education, and ability to learn about different sites of the world. Thus, the Internet provides people with numerous abilities, which were inaccessible even a decade ago.
Matt Asay stated that vast amount and variety of provided information and options have negative influence on human cognition. Users’ attention becomes more scattered. They suffer from diffused concentration. Similar opinion was introduced by Nicholas Carr. The author stated that users’ habit of reading short articles and accustoming to distructions from incoming mail and advertising makes immersing in long narrations a rather difficult task. It also causes inability to concentrate, perform deep reading and contemplate, form meaningful mental connections, and interpret obtained information properly. These changes in human minds are used by modern search engines, such as Google. Search algorithms analyze users’ requests and provide people with the information they were searching for. In such a way, information becomes a commodity. Productivity of the human mind becomes more dependent on quick processing of information and faster understanding of the gist, rather than deep consideration. International corporations use this analysis for better understanding of human needs and desires, thus offering their commodities more effectively. Thus, user’s decisions about reading a certain article or purchasing a certain commodity are often made by service providers on their behalf.
Nicholas Carr also introduced an idea that increasing reliance on knowledge, provided by the Internet, without the necessity to remember it will have destructive effect on human memory. Easy access to vast amount of information causes intellectual laziness. Moreover, big variety of information and opinions produces “endless streams of mediocrity, eroding cultural norms about quality and acceptability”.
The described articles provide the understanding that the Internet makes humans more intelligent by providing free access to excessive amount of information and ideas. This global environment enhances development of critical skills, as well as the ability to process gained knowledge. Nonetheless, it has negative influence on people’s ability to memorize and build meaningful connections and causes drifting concentration. Information becomes a commodity that is used to stimulates people to make decisions which are made by service providers. Moreover, the Internet encourages development of intellectual laziness and complicates the search of relevant information. Thus, people become smarter in the prejudice of other abilities.
Summary of Interview Findings
An interview of a business user of information on system and technology has shown that this person highly benefits from open access to broad knowledge, provided by the Internet. This person gets an opportunity to consult with experts in the field, who are located far away. However, very specific knowledge may not always be found in the computer network. For this reason, it is sometimes hard to check relevance of the data.
The interviewee stated that he has become smarter. He has open access to global knowledge and can learn almost about any topic he is interested in. The user believes that vast amount of information masters his analytic skills. However, he seldom uses his memory for remembering much information. The major disadvantages of the use of the Internet are losing much time on while watching entertaining pictures and videos, as well as constant interruption of working process.
To summarize, the Internet plays a significant role in the life of modern society. It provides open access to excessive amount of information within a short period of time, opportunity to share and form personal opinion, critically analyze information, and easily refresh one’s knowledge concerning almost any topic. The respondents of the survey and the participant of the interview have agreed that the Internet makes human smarter.
The same opinion is presented in some articles. However, the introduced authors have also recognized the disruptive influence of the Internet on human memory, concentration, and freedom of choice. These outcomes form the understanding that the Internet makes humans smarter by virtue of sacrificing some of their abilities.