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Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

836 words 3 page(s)

Never before in the history of humankind has there existed such abundant access to information. We have libraries, video media, films, newspapers, and the vast Internet by which to research and educate ourselves. Yet, the Internet has become to many a clearinghouse for any type of information, both the educational and scholarly as well as the base and crude. The debate that arises is whether the Internet is indeed enriching our intelligence or making us dumber.

Weinberger (2013) proclaims that the Internet is indeed beneficial to human well-being. He claims that: it connects experts, creates an ethos of information sharing, and provides access to otherwise inaccessible subjects, among other benefits. Likewise, Shirky (2010) argues that the flow of digital information and high access to the Internet means that “people are reading more than ever” (p. 1). Shirky believes that people who did not enjoy reading books as a form of accessing information, are on line and must be learning to some extent. Shirky compares the Internet to the Gutenberg press and stresses the main benefit as the tremendous access to information. He points out that the 1.8 global Internet users are at an intellectual advantage: “the Net restores reading and writing as central activities in our culture” (2010, p. 2). However, other critics say that the average person is reading junk on the Internet, or frequenting social media sites, not really enriching their minds (Carr, 2010). Likewise, psychologist Shandra confirms Nicholas Carr’s arguments that the Internet is making us “stupid and shallow” (2012).

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Spitzer, a leading neuroscientist from Germany, has been studying television and the computer’s effects on the brain for years. He has concluded with concrete evidence that young children should not use computers too much because it causes deficits in brain development that “cannot be made up for later” (Ehrenstein, 2012, p. 1). Likewise, there are kinesthetic and cerebral connections that are made when a child writes or adds on his fingers that are not built when that same child uses a stylus of a SMART board or a calculator. Spitzer is making an evidence based argument for old fashioned learning methods.

For the pro-argument, a Discovery News article (2012) asserts that the Internet has bred “rapid fire attention” that will be useful in building a “creative class” and also that it will be important for future web-based jobs and activities. While that may be true, major critics like Nicholas Carr provide evidence that the attention span and knowledge of the Internet generation is shallow. Technology expert McKendrick (2012) argues against Carr’s perspective by saying that experienced Google users measured higher activation levels in the brain’s cognitive and complex decision making functioning.

With all of this conflicting evidence, it is difficult to know which side to believe.
Personally, I do not believe that the Internet is making us smarter. I believe that for people who are already passive learners, Google will make them even lazier. For those who use the Internet as a tool, it will help them. Philosopher and tech expert Lanier calls the Internet the “world wide mush”. According to Lanier, a major problem with digital collectivism is that there are too many voices and that innovation is not generated from collectivism. This makes sense because when everyone is contributing to a cause (e.g. Wikipedia) it becomes a dump heap of ideas that churn out a “dull, average outcome”. Lanier critiques open programming stating that “open source, open processes lead to global mush.” Also, Lanier criticizes meta-sites like Wikipedia for usurping other information channels as it pops up as the first site on any search.

People are becoming too dependent on the Internet to access information and have forgotten how to search libraries and print materials. This I believe is a disadvantage. I agree with Neil Postman (1990), that our technological advances are not aimed at making us better or freer or more enlightened. Instead of “informing ourselves to death” as Postman (1990) says, we should probably work toward becoming more altruistic or addressing real needs. To conclude, Postman describes the computer as a:

“magnificent toy that distracts us from facing what we most needed to confront – spiritual emptiness, knowledge of ourselves, usable conceptions of the past and future. Does one blame the computer for this? Of course not. It is, after all, only a machine. But it is presented to us, with trumpets blaring, as at this conference, as a technological messiah.”

  • Carr, N. (2010). Does the Internet Make You Dumber? Wall Street Journal. Retrieved
  • Discovery News. (29 Feb 2012). “Internet Makes Us Smarter & Dumber.” Retrieved
  • Ehrenstein, C. (12 Sept 2012). Does the Internet Make You Dumb? Top German
    Neuroscientist Says Yes-And Forever. Die Welt. Retrieved from
  • Lanier, J. (8 January 2010). World Wide Mush. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from
  • McKendrick, J. (2012). Three Reasons the Internet may be making us smarter, not
    dumber. Smart Planet. Retrieved from