The Internet doesn’t think

February 15, 2010 | By | 5 Replies More

Edge.org has published the results to its annual question. This year’s inquiry: How Has The Internet Changed The Way You Think?.

There are dozens of thoughtful answers that could occupy you for an entire day. The answer offered by cognitive scientist Joshua Greene caught my attention.  Here’s an excerpt:

Have you ever read a great book from before the mid 1990s and thought to yourself, “My Goodness! These ideas are so primitive! So… pre-Internet!” Me neither. The Internet hasn’t changed the way we think anymore than the microwave oven has changed the way we digest food. The Internet has provided us with unprecedented access to information, but it hasn’t changed what we do with it once it’s made it into our heads. This is because the Internet doesn’t (yet) know how to think. We still have to do it for ourselves, and we do it the old-fashioned way.

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Category: Internet, Psychology Cognition, Technology

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    The internet has changed the way I work. Not because I can work from home; I did that before the internet. But because there is now a way to quickly look up details.

    I used to memorize the entire list of commands for each computer language I used. Now, I can always look up what I need.

    I used to buy books of facts, like the <a href="http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=CRC+Handbook+of+Chemistry+and+physics+&_cqr=true&_nkwusc=CRC+Handbook+of+Chemistry+and+Physic&_rdc=1&quot; target="_blank" rel="nofollow">CRC Handbook of Chemistry and physics (I have several editions). Now every detail in those heavy tomes are available at my fingertips. I also have 1911 and 1958 Britannica sets, collecting dust.

    But as to changing the way "we" think, it has allowed everyone access to unprecedented sources of confirmation bias. The wackiest memes can find thousands of sources of validation and reinforcement.

    There are no more Una-bombers desperately sending explosives in order to get their narcissistic ideas published. They publish and share and the ideas grow in a community of like-minded whackos. Until their compounds are raided, or they are elected. The outcome depends on their persuasiveness.

  2. NIklaus Pfirsig says:

    I like to think of the internet as a "resonant meme amplifier". Any idea that can pass a critical threshold becomes unstoppable.

    Some optimists see this ia a positive thing, but in reality, this effect is more often a negative influence. spreading paranoia and hate.

    Ultimately, the end user of the information must be able to determine the veracity of the information found on the internet. This can be extremely difficult.

  3. tracy says:

    Eric, Ur useless. How did U make it out of high school?

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    The above comment by "tracy" serves as evidence that the mere fact that we have access to vast information through the Internet doesn't guarantee we are any better off.

    I'm not sure how "tracy's" comment furthered the discussion of the post. I'm wondering what motivated "tracy" to use the internet to make this particular comment. I suspect that her comment served as yet one more put-down in our schadenfreude-permeated culture. She puts me down so she can feel a little superior.

    The Internet is full of these sorts of comments, of course. I tend to blame several decades of sit-com "humor" for much of this phenomena, and the Internet is merely the latest place to make such displays.

  5. Tracy needed a can opener. She found an old can, steel, that requires an opener. Like everything else, she went looking on the internet for her can opener and found this post. U R not a can opener, Erich. Ergo, U R Useless.

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