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BecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseFor exampleBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseBecauseFor exampleFor exampleFor exampleIs the internet"making us stupid"?YOU DECIDE!1.1DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:1. How does the internet affect the way you think?2. Have you ever tried taking a break from the internet for morethan a day? If so, how did that make you feel?3. What specific apps or websites do you think have the mostnegative effects on your thinking, and why?4. Describe in as much detail as possible what it would look likefor someone to use the internet responsibly.BACKGROUND:In a 2008 article for The Atlantic, Nicholas Carr asked, “Is Google Making UsStupid?” Carr argued that the internet as a whole, not just Google, has been“chipping away [our] capacity for concentration and contemplation.” He wasconcerned that the internet was “reprogramming us.” However, he also notedthat we should “be skeptical of my skepticism,” because maybe he’s “just aworrywart.” He explained, “Just as there’s a tendency to glorify technologicalprogress, there’s a counter-tendency to expect the worst of every new tool ormachine.” That article and Carr’s subsequent book ignited a continuingdebate about how the medium is changing the way we think and interact witheach other, and the very fabric of society as a whole.1.2YES: The internet ismaking us stupid1.3Using the internetinhibits our ability toretain information2.1An international teamof researchers havefound that theinternet can produceboth acute andsustained alterationsin specific areas ofcognition, affectingour attentionalcapacities andmemory processes3.1The neural pathwaysin our brain that formand store memoriescan atrophy if notexercised regularly3.2Using the internet doesnot exercise these neuralpathways in the same waythat using other mediadoes3.3A joint study byresearchers at Yaleand Zhejiang NormalUniversity found thatsearching forinformation on theinternet wasassociated with loweraccuracy in recallinginformation, ascompared withsearching for thesame information inbooks4.1MRI scans of peoplesearching forinformation onlinerevealed lower brainactivation thanpeople usingencyclopedias inseveral brain areasassociated withmemory formation4.2IQ scores around theworld have beenfalling dramaticallysince the 1970s2.2Global IQ rates aredropping by between0.5-2 points perdecade, a reversal ofa centuries-long trendof steady growth inglobal IQ scores3.4The most likely causeof this trend is theglobal use of theinternet2.3The timespan of thistrend coincides withthe invention anddevelopment of theinternet3.5According to a recentstudy by researchersat the Ragnar FrischCentre for EconomicResearch in Oslo, thegenerational changesin IQ observed overthe course of the 20thcentury are caused byenvironmental factorsrather than geneticones3.6There is no otherenvironmental factorthat has had assignificant and trulyglobal of an impact asthe internet3.7Using the internetweakens our ability tocritically evaluate newinformation2.4The internet hasreduced our ability tofocus andconcentrate3.8According to a studyby scholars atUniversity CollegeLondon, "Users arenot reading online inthe traditionalsense...New forms of'reading' areemerging as users'power browse'horizontally throughtitles, contents pagesand abstracts goingfor quick wins"4.3The internet isdesigned to prioritizethe speed andefficiency with whichusers can accessinformation3.9The mission ofGoogle is to organizethe world’sinformation andmake it universallyaccessible and useful4.4Google's searchengine is the platformfor 87% of all internetsearches4.5In the interest ofspeed and efficiency,critical thinking issacrificed3.10Google founder LarryPage described "theperfect searchengine” as one thatunderstands exactlywhat you mean andgives you back exactlywhat you want4.6Such a search engineis one to which criticalthinking has beenoutsourced and is nolonger theresponsibility of theuser4.7Our inability to criticallyevaluate new informationmakes people susceptibleto false and misleadinginformation2.5According to aStanford HistoryEducation Groupstudy of students'ability to evaluate thecredibility of onlinesources, the majorityof students frommiddle schoolthrough college wereeasily misled by falseinformation theyencountered online3.11NO: The internet isnot making usstupid1.4The internet may notbe weakeningpeople's ability torememberinformation2.6Humans have longrelied on ourcommunities andmedia to externalizeor extend memoryand knowledgebeyond our ownpersonal mentalcapacities3.12The internet helps usto perform this samefunction better thanwe could before3.13The internet is a moreextensive andaccessible form ofexternal memorythan other media4.8The internet puts usin closer contact witha wider array ofpeople with whom wecan share knowledge4.9People's memorymight be changingrather thanweakening: “Itremains to be seenwhether thisincreased reliance onthe internet is in anyway different fromthe type of increasedreliance one mightexperience on otherinformation sources,such as books orpeople"3.14The internet isactually making ussmarter in some ways2.7"Smartness" is betterunderstood as acommunal trait ratherthan an individualone3.15In the real world, "alltypes of knowledge,from the prosaic tothe arcane, getapportioned amongmembers of thegroup"4.10"When we can'tremember the rightname or how to fix abroken machine, wesimply turn tosomeone elsecharged with being inthe know"5.1The internet improvesour collective"smartness"3.16The internet makesmore information andresources moreaccessible for morepeople4.11Kristin Jenkins, executive directorof BioQUEST CurriculumConsortium, said, “Access toinformation is enormouslypowerful, and the internet hasprovided access to people in a waywe have never beforeexperienced... Information thatwas once accessed through printmaterials that were not availableto everyone and often out of dateis now much more readilyavailable to many more people."5.2Many disabledpeople, especiallythose who are deaf orhard of hearing, mayhave an easier timeaccessing informationand communicatingonline than in person5.3Among elderly men,one study found thatfrequent internet usemay contribute to theaccumulation ofcognitive reserve andprevent naturalprocesses of cognitivedecline3.17"Reprogramming thebrain" is notnecessarily negative2.8Humans have alwaysbeen good at learningand adapting to newenvironments3.18The cognitivechanges described insome studies reflect achange in the sort ofthinking that isnecessary in a newtechnological andsocial environment3.19The internet makesthe need toremember trivialinformation lessnecessary4.12Not needing to spendmental energy onremembering thissort of informationfrees us up to focuson larger and moreimportant questions4.13Almost every newtechnology, includingthe internet, has beenmet with fear andresistance2.9The Greekphilosopher Socrateswarned that writingwould fill people "notwith wisdom but withthe conceit of wisdomthey will be a burdento their fellows"3.20Reacting to thedevelopment of theprinting press, 16thcentury Swissscientist ConradGessner warned thatpeople would beoverwhelmed withdata and that thisoverabundance was“confusing andharmful” to the mind3.21Critics of early steam-spewing locomotives,for example, thought“that women’s bodieswere not designed togo at 50 miles anhour,” and worriedthat “[femalepassengers’] uteruseswould fly out of[their] bodies”3.22Even when a newtechnology does havea profound impact onsociety, the effectsare not usually asdrastic as detractorsfear2.10

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