Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Just two weeks ago I had to hold a discussion on the impact of Google in front of the class.

Google in this case refers to the internet in general. You see, Google has essentially impacted our lives so much that people start associating it to the world wide web despite it being launched only 4-5 years AFTER Yahoo! – a search engine we thought was such a big deal. Disagree? Now just how many times have you used the term “Google” when you supposedly mean you need to look something up?

When I did my research I stumbled onto Nicholas Carr’s renowned article about Google (titled the same as this post). I can’t help but to agree – Google is indeed making us think less and more dependent on it for information. It’s like, our depth of thinking never expanded since the we started relying on the internet for answers. We assume it knows everything, and sites like and aren’t helping either.

I have personally come across students posting their discussion topics/questions (supposedly given by their school teachers) online. By that I mean, seriously the entire question copied and pasted. Only a handful of the respondents realised his laziness and refused to share the answer. But majority of them actually painstakingly did! It was surprising, and that also proves how the internet has slowly led to the reduction of hard work we put in our research.

And another thing that Carr pointed out was our attention span when it comes to reading. I bet many of us experience that as we’d merely skim through long articles. For myself, I wouldn’t go beyond 4 paragraphs if it isn’t about sex, crime or anything else newsworthy. It would be a torment to read ONE page of text. That’s because internet has allowed us to CHOOSE from a wide variety of information. We click on the first few search results on Google and exit the pages less than 5 minutes after we enter them – solely because they don’t have what we wanted. As a result the way we read suffers and you’d probably find yourself losing focus after awhile. If you never realised that, think back about that one time you were studying for a test. Didn’t you get fidgety after reading a few sentences?

Now with Twitter it seems to worsen the matter. Because of its 140-word only policy, we find ourselves accustomed to reading short texts. So when lecturers need you to read 3 pages from a textbook it’d be equivalent to shooting you in the head. At this rate, textbooks would have to be HEAVILY simplified so that they don’t bore students so easily. We want the details to come *snaps* FAST. So.. really, would engaged readers eventually cease to exist?

However to be fair, we also need to look at the other side of the coin. Without the internet, we’d still be living in our own world, not knowing what is happening around us. With Apocalypse (natural disasters, global warming etc) approaching, we need to equip ourselves with knowledge to survive. And the Internet has helped us a lot in this aspect. We also need to constantly adapt to changes. So in other words, the Internet COULD HAVE also made us smarter in another way.

Some argue that ultimately how much we use the Internet is within our control. It’s our responsibility – which I, too, agree.

So what’s your take in this? If I have to make a stand, I’d say yes – Google does make us stupid. But I’m willing to be stupid as long as it keeps me alive.

You in 2050

Sometimes I really count myself lucky to be born in Generation Y when somehow inventors got smarter and started creating things that would make our life a whole lot easier. When handphones with built-in cameras and (slow) internet were launched about 7 years back, I thought that was already the peak of technology and it would probably stop there because I couldn’t think of other ways to make a phone more awesome. But heck, I was WRONG. Then came iPhone with those interesting applications that even hooked my 55-year-old aunt onto them. At this rate, I really wonder how technology would further evolve in the next 40 to 50 years (of course ignoring the HEARSAY that the world would end in 2012)?

Would we be able to control technology with our hands? Unknowingly we may have already experienced the first few stages of it. See how we use our fingers to control the settings on our Mac Books? One finger to move the cursor, two to scroll and four to (in Windows term) minimize and maximize windows. If Steve Jobs and his men are able to ditch the touchpad while still allowing us to do the aforementioned and MORE, I’m pretty sure life as we saw in Minority Report would be achievable ๐Ÿ™‚

Actually movie directors seem to have better insight into the future. Perhaps when I celebrate my 60th birthday (if I can live that long) I would have already worked in an underground facility that is controlled by super computer. Yes, what you see in Resident Evil may just jolly well come true. And be careful when you sleep, as someone may just extract information from your unconscious mind when you dream. ๐Ÿ˜›

8 years ago when Minority Report was released, there were no social networks nor touchscreen phones. Gadgets we saw in the movie were hence pretty unrealistic. Most of us, I’m sure were skeptical of the whole new revolution. But guess what happened? Those unbelievable gadgets are slowly turning into reality. Do you know the US Army is currently researching on how to create a screen that is so thin and flexible that it can be rolled up? ๐Ÿ™‚ It would most likely replace the bulky, heavy netbooks/iPad/handphones we’re carrying now. especially when it doesn’t consume so much power! I read that it could be available in 3 years’ time.

Anyway apart from the retractable screen, the movie showcased numerous other inventions which could probably come true in the future. But there are also some things which I reckon are unnecessary, accompanied with my explanation.

  1. Iris Recognition
    In the movie, people are identified by their iris (EYEBALLS) because apparently everyone’s iris is as unique as a fingerprint. But isn’t fingerprint recognition good enough for us? I’m not sure about you but when the beam flashes into your eye to identify your iris, it seems to hurt, like when the camera flashes right into your eyes. If you’re thinking about false rejections that fingerprint recognition could cause, many of these rejections are caused by human error (error during the registration). I do not totally disapprove of iris recognition though; it could be made into an alternative, like for silly people who chop off their fingers to escape from justice. But it should not definitely be made into compulsory gadget. ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. E-paper
    One of the most “WHOA!” items I saw in the movie.. just too unbelievable and I doubt every print company would go into that extent because of its cost and.. I don’t know. I prefer hard copies more? If I see an article I like, I’d cut it out and keep it somewhere. I don’t like print screening and saving it on my computer because you wouldn’t know when it’ll crash. (And I don’t have the habit of backing up my files) Once again, it can be made into a money-making alternative but definitely not a must-use.

I guess that’s all from the whole list of possible gadgets shown in the movie. The rest… they would pretty much add a whole lot of convenience to our lives ๐Ÿ™‚

I tried imagining myselfย  sitting on the couch, watching a 3-D film that projects holographic images in my living room. Then when I’m done with it, I’ll head over to my desk that holds my computer. But instead of using a mouse, I gesture. I gesture for the Firefox (probably by then it’d be taken over my Snow Leopard) window to be up! Right in front of me, is the Firefox window projected in the air. I touch the screen to navigate. That, my friends, is probably life in 50 years!

Now try imagining yours in 2050! ๐Ÿ™‚