we have all heard the advantages of the “wisdom of the crowd” and how with the internet and collaborations available to us through social media, we have the potential to converge and come up with better ideas faster. Wikipedia, is an example of the wisdom of the crowds, volunteers sharing information they know and others editing, adding and reading it.
But as much as Wikipedia is an example of technology harnessing the crowds wisdom and giving us a useful tool for learning, does the fact that we don’t have to know the second presidents name because all we have to do is look it up really make us smarter? Yes the internet has almost infinite information that people could learn from and become very wise and knowledgable if they dedicated themselves to reading informative material online, but is that what we do?
In some cases, yes. studies have found that when comparing frequent internet users to infrequent, people who used the internet more had better planning skills, and claims internet stimulates the mind.
While you can argue that technology has made us ADD, scatterbrained and not able to focus on one thing, and dumber due to reliance, Carl Zimmer argues that these are just fascinations with our fears about technology, not about the reality of the situation. Philosopher Andy Clark claims we are “natural born cyborgs” and that using our technologies as an extension of our brains is natural and useful tool that enhances our knowledge and capabilities.
fears about new technologies is a recurring cycle in history. Socrates worried that writing would make us forgetful and unwise. People worried that we would become sentient because of television, that cell phones kill brain cells. there is always a push against new technologies and our fears associated with it, but often times these are misguided and radicalized. The mind can adapt to our changing world, and not using the internet as a source and tool for gaining knowledge would make you seem “dumb” to others who do utilize such tools.
There are drawbacks to using such technologies, but the reality of the situation lies in how you use the tools provided. If you choose, the internet, and technology could be a vast source of quality information and knowledge, but it can also be a place of closed minded ignorance, depending on how you use it.
The question is not does technology make us smarter/dumber? the question is: are we smart enough to use technology (in productive ways)?