Did The Automobile Dehumanize Walking? No? Then Does Google Dehumanize Intelligence?
from the no dept
Kevin sent over one of Nick Carr’s latest ramblings, attacking Google and its VP Marissa Mayer for saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can find out.” That statement is a little too bland to actually catch on, but is hardly a new idea. In fact, we’ve argued that this is the case for many years. If you have regular access to a vast computer network that lets you find stuff, you can actually have your biological brain focus on more important things, rather than cramming it with things you can easily find out. In fact, with various studies suggesting the real key to intelligence is better forgetting rather than better remembering, you could argue that not having to remember certain things can be of great benefit.
But not to Nick Carr, apparently. To him, this means that people are becoming “intellectually dehumanized.” And this is a bad, bad thing:
Truth is self-created through labor, through the hard, inefficient, unscripted work of the mind, through the indirection of dream and reverie. What matters is what cannot be rendered as code. Google can give you everything but meaning.
But this presupposes all sorts of incorrect things — such as the idea that what information you don’t store in your brain can’t be used for sussing out meaning. It reminds me of the people who insisted, years ago, that calculators would destroy everyone’s ability to do basic math, and that this would inevitably lead to the downfall of society. Sure, I may not totally remember my times tables, but being able to quickly use a calculator to figure out something isn’t really a problem at all. And, much more importantly, it means that I can do much more complex mathematical calculations as well. The same is true of Google. Sure, we may not remember little bits of information here or there, but we can more easily bring together a much, much, much larger corpus of information, and synthesize that in a useful way in our brains. There is no rule that you should only use what’s stored directly in your mind to think about things.
The calculator didn’t dehumanize math. The automobile didn’t dehumanize walking. And Google, most certainly, has not dehumanized intelligence. It’s only enabled it to do much, much more.