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Google makes us all dumber

I came across this article is posted in Salon entitled Google makes us all dumber. It struck a chord in me, because I've seen how the abundance of immediately available information makes people less conscious of what they think and what they say.

Previously, when someone asked "What is the population of the India?", we had to think about what we knew about India to figure it out. We could attempt things like population density times land mass, or number of main cities times average city size, or try and recall how its population ranked when compared to China. Nowadays, someone will simply pull up Google, and tell you the answer. You might gain that piece of information, but it is useless it no longer informs you how to think, or what to think about.

The article concludes with the following 2 paragraphs:

The practice of asking perceptive, informed, curious questions is a cultural habit we should inculcate at every level of society. In school, students are generally expected to answer questions rather than ask them. But educational researchers have found that students learn better when they’re gently directed towards the lacunae in their knowledge, allowing their questions bubble up through the gaps. Wikipedia and Google are best treated as starting points rather than destinations, and we should recognize that human interaction will always play a vital role in fueling the quest for knowledge. After all, Google never says, “I don’t know — what do you think?”
The Internet has the potential to be the greatest tool for intellectual exploration ever invented, but only if it is treated as a complement to our talent for inquiry rather than a replacement for it. In a world awash in ready-made answers, the ability to pose difficult, even unanswerable questions is more important than ever.

In an age where information is at your fingertips, how do you keep curious and questioning?

What kind of questions should we be asking?

Note by Calvin Lin
2 years, 3 months ago

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I stay on Brilliant to stay curious!

I don't have a smartphone electronic mobile device thingy, so I guess I could say information is not constantly at my fingertips. I tend to spend more time thinking silently than the average person - just sitting and thinking about things and life. It slows me down in a good way when we live in an age of exceptional speed and efficiency. Anyways, I think we should ask more why questions than what questions - why is a problem occurring, not just what to do to fix it. People like to patch things up, whether politically or literally or in any situation.

Also, as an afterthought, we should start more thinking conversations. I think some questions tend to end good things - "Why aren't you doing your homework Justin?!?!" - and some questions don't start anything meaningful. People like to raise awareness of social problems, but viral awareness doesn't equate to meaningful discussions or progress. And also, as I stop ranting, questioning should be a continuous process. I hope as a human race

we can't stop. And we won't stop. - Cyrus

That's just my little 2 cent take on the article. Justin Wong · 2 years, 3 months ago

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The questions we should ask (from the perspective of a student):

How? Why? Really? That doesn't seem right... Woah, how'd that guy do it? Is there an easier way? Maybe it should be done this way instead... Wait a minute, it's not working! Why? Hmm. Maybe because... Nope, I'm not sure. Let's ask someone on Brilliant/MathStackExchange/YA! Perhaps they have some clue. Ohh, so that's where I went wrong! Are there any similar problems/questions I can answer using what I've learnt? Let's ask Google...

Frankly, I've found the internet far more useful than not. For factual information, nothing beats Google (not to mention Wikipedia!) I doubt memorizing any easily-obtainable, random information will be of use. But for actual learning, the internet opens up a huge, huge set of resources that are easy-to-access, free and constantly updated, which is simply awesome, since any dedicated guy can learn almost anything himself.

My two cents on Googling:

If that information is the end-product of a chain of reasoning, using Google to get the final result without putting in the mental effort yourself is ridiculous, because you've circumvented the process of actual thinking, which is often crucial to true understanding. (As a physics student, for me, this is essentially deriving the moment of inertia of a sphere instead of looking up the final result!)

On the other hand, if the information is merely factual, like the names of the 50 states of the USA, or the currency used by Kazakhstan, there is no point to memorizing it, because having the info at one's fingertips is hardly going to be of any use anyway. In this case, I google! Raj Magesh · 2 years, 2 months ago

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@Raj Magesh Thanks for sharing! I agree with

If that information is the end-product of a chain of reasoning, using Google to get the final result without putting in the mental effort yourself is ridiculous, because you've circumvented the process of actual thinking, which is often crucial to true understanding

If you do not do your own thinking, eventually you will be unable to think. Calvin Lin Staff · 2 years, 2 months ago

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Thanks @Calvin Lin for sharing this amazing article with all of us. Henceforth I will first think and then google. :) Snehal Shekatkar · 2 years, 3 months ago

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@Jeremy Bansil This might interest you. Calvin Lin Staff · 2 years, 3 months ago

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@Calvin Lin I... can't say anything... I think this the most accurate thing I've seen in Brilliant. Just imagine every single article in a newspaper will be based on Google. In fact, Google is the most visited website. (I didn't use a search engine for the previous sentence. I promise.)

In my opinion, almost ALL search engines makes us all dumber. Not just Google, but think also of Yahoo, Altavista, and other search engines.

However, we still need Google in our lives. I mean, we're not going to use it in every way possible, but use it in a very nice way in such way that we will know what we really need to know. You can use Google to read news, search for applications, or whatever you want to do...

...but what I mean is, Google neither makes you smarter nor dumber. Instead it makes your brain work less, in such way you would not dig deeper for your own answers. Just think of Google as a mitochondrion-- it generates both ATP and free radicals, where we have no ability to create peroxisomes. Well, in a simpler way, Google should be used wisely. Jeremy Bansil · 2 years, 2 months ago

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@Jeremy Bansil Another thing is, when people introduced gadgets, the Internet, search engines, or anything that is commonly used today, they said it would make our life EASIER. But the truth is, it makes us LAZIER. Jeremy Bansil · 2 years, 2 months ago

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@Calvin Lin Also, thank you for this information. It would be very helpful to me when I'll write an editorial. Jeremy Bansil · 2 years, 2 months ago

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I agree with the main idea of the article, information should be processed through original thought instead of relying on what someone else says the answer is. But if we had to do that for everything the effort would be tremendous. I think that the purpose of Google is to make knowledge that has already been preprocessed readily available. Google won't tell you everything, but Google is a launching point to get you started. It helps you "stand on the shoulders of giants." I just think that the article vastly understates the usefulness of Google. Brock Brown · 2 years ago

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