Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is Technology Making Us Smarter or Dumber?

There seem to be two clear sides to the question of whether we are becoming smarter or dumber. One side believes that technologies like YouTube, texting and instant messaging are making us dumber. The other side believes new technologies extend our brains and make us smarter.

Last summer the cover of The Atlantic (left) posed a question: “Is Google Making Us Stoopid?” Inside the magazine, author Nicholas Carr argued that the Internet is damaging our brains, robbing us of our memories and deep thoughts. “As we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world,” he wrote, “it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

In a new book, Txtng: The Gr8 Db8, (rignt) the English linguist David Crystal demonstrates that many of the dire warnings about texting are little more than urban legends. Texting doesn’t lead to bad spelling, he finds. In fact, Crystal writes, “texting actually improves your literacy, as it gives you more practice in reading and writing.”

According to Carl Zimmer in Discover magazine, "the ominous warnings feed on a popular misconception of how the mind works... In fact, the mind appears to be adapted for reaching out from our heads and making the world, including our machines, an extension of itself." His article is "How Google Makes Us Smarter."

Click on the heading above to see Zimmer's article in Discover.

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