We still haven’t grappled with the deep questions Nicholas Carr brought to public attention in his seminal ebook, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (2010). Is the internet making us dumb? Is the era causing us cognitive loss or debilitation? Carr centered on the net, that’s, by using layout, a dumb technology—a well-known-purpose digital communique infrastructure that driven “intelligence” to the ends of the network.
Since my very own ebook Re-Engineering Humanity, co-authored by Evan Sellinger, turned into posted, I’m regularly requested: Is smart era making us dumb? My first reaction is to bounce a few questions again. Can technology absolutely be smart? Is your query whether or not our use of certain technologies is making us dumb? Or is your question approximately era corporations?
Eventually, I return to the authentic question and reply like an attorney: It depends. It’s yes, in some methods, and no in others. Before addressing it, we need to well known the conceptual mistake of boiling intelligence all the way down to a binary—smart as opposed to dumb—as if it exists on a single measurement. There are many distinct sorts of intelligence that remember, and the way generation impacts different types additionally varies appreciably.
Once I’m achieved meandering, but I answer yes. I accept as true with we may be making ourselves dumber whilst we outsource questioning and rely upon supposedly smart tech to micromanage our daily lives for the sake of cheap comfort.
The internet gives us seemingly endless statistics, prose, pics, video, and other uncooked materials that could, in theory, beautify our intelligence and permit us to end up more informed, to be greater skillful, or to use actionable intelligence otherwise. Maybe we may want to enhance our selection-making, replicate our beliefs, interrogate our personal biases, and so on.
But will we? Who does? Who precisely is made smarter? And how? And concerning what? Are you and I, and our siblings and kids, attractive with the seemingly infinite uncooked substances in a manner that makes us greater successful, extra shrewd? Or do we find ourselves outsourcing increasingly? Do we discover ourselves mindlessly following scripts written or designed through others?
We’re effortlessly caused trust that we’re extending our minds and becoming extra intelligent with a bit of help from the virtual tech gear. In truth, the ones are often just illusions, sales pitches optimized to pave the direction of least resistance. Every time someone suggests they’ve prolonged their thoughts with their cellphone, that they are thinking via and with their telephones, I reply by asking them approximately who’s doing what wondering.
Are they extending their mind or extending the reach of others into their thoughts? When you rely on GPS, who’s doing the direction-making plans? Who is gaining what intelligence? Are you smarter due to GPS? What impact do outsourcing navigation and consciousness of your surroundings have on your abilities? Certainly, Waze or Google advantage intelligence approximately you, your surroundings, and even others around you. That might be top or terrible. However, it’s now not really extending your thoughts or expanding your intelligence.
As everybody is aware of via now, many digital tech agencies realize a lot approximately every folk. Advertisers, Cambridge Analytica–like companies, massive platforms, and so on. They’ve won big intelligence and, as a result, strength. But a word that for the most element, they feed on exclusive uncooked substances. They don’t get clever with the aid of eating the identical substances that we’re fed.
They gain actionable intelligence by way of accumulating treasure troves of information gleaned from virtual networked technologies. Everything that occurs on the net—each interaction, transaction, communication, and so forth.—the entirety is information, strings of 0s and 1s. And all of our activities generate statistics. Digital tech groups gain actionable intelligence through gathering and processing statistics, often approximately how we behave in reaction to exclusive stimuli—what we’re fed. This empowers those agencies. They might also, as an example, personalize their offerings to set off applicable behaviors, inclusive of sustained engagement. Or they may develop new salable insights approximately clients. I may want to go on. But the bottom line is that digital tech agencies get smarter, greater successful, greater power.
But what approximately you and me? Do we also get smarter? Do we make our minds bigger and thereby gain intelligence and elevated talents? What actual abilities are extended or more desirable? Are they, in truth, practiced? If so, to what give up? What actionable intelligence improves the first-class of your existence?
Upon mirrored image, I continue to be uncertain. Again, the legal profession in me emerges, and I can attain no definitive assessment. Does that say something about me and my reflective potential, the ambiguity of empirical proof, or something else?
The net promised the library of Alexandria at our fingertips, introduced straight away wherever and whenever we adore. It delivered that and lots, plenty extra. One would possibly describe the alternate in Faustian terms: buying and selling one’s soul for knowledge. Putting aside concerns about what’s been lost (our soul, humanity, and so forth.), it’s now not even clear that the promised understanding was brought. To make matters worse, comparing the Faustian good deal is even harder whilst the highbrow skills required to accomplish that appear to be waning, at least for many of us.