Google Does Not Make People Stupid, Internet Experts Suggest
Google doesn't make people stupid, a survey of Internet experts by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University seemed to suggest. Some 76 percent of those polled believed the Internet will eventually allow people to become smarter and make better choices, while 21 percent thought that Internet use could potentially start driving down people's IQs by 2020. In written comments accompanying the survey, those experts debated both sides of the Google-equals-stupidity argument.Does Google make people stupider?
That was the question that the Pew Internet & American Life Project, in conjunction with Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center, asked a group of Internet "experts," who largely concluded that the popular search engine does not, in fact, make people stupid.
Some 76 percent of the 895 experts polled for the study believed that, by 2020, people's use of the Internet and its access to massive amounts of information will allow them to "become smarter and make better choices...Google does not make us stupid."
"The Net's effect on our intellectual lives will not be measured simply by average IQ scores," Nicholas Carr wrote in response. "What the Net does is shift the emphasis of our intelligence, away from what might be called meditative or contemplative intelligence and more toward what might be called a utilitarian intelligence. The price of zipping among lots of bits of information is a loss of depth in our thinking." A Google staffer offered Pew a retort to Carr's viewpoint.
"Skimming and concentrating can and should coexist," Peter Norvig, Google Research Director, wrote. "I would also like to say that Carr has it mostly backwards when he says that Google is built on the principles of Taylorism [the institution of time-management and worker-activity standards in industrial settings]." While Taylorism supposedly places the balance of power on management, Norvig continues, "Google does the opposite, shifting responsibility from management to the worker, encouraging creativity in each job, and encouraging workers to shift among many different roles in their career." Making sense of Google's data, he insists, requires creativity and knowledge, as well as connections to other individuals.
In a slightly different take, Google chief economist Hal Varian told Pew that "Google will make us more informed. The smartest person in the world could well be behind a plow in China or India. Providing universal access to information will allow such people to realize their full potential, providing benefits to the entire world."