Are We Loosing the Ability to Solve Problems by our Increased Use of Computers?
It is hard to deny the increase use of computers in today's society for the past 30 years. Since the birth of personal computers in the 70's there has been a huge increase in sales worldwide. According to the Gartner group, the world’s leading information technology research and Advisor Company, 1.1 million PC shipments that were sold in 1980 contrast 336.6 million units are projected to reach in 2010; a 12.6 percent increase over 2009. It is no surprise then that in view of this ever increasing use of computers, some people have questioned if people are losing their ability to think for themselves. I believe this is not the case. We are not losing our ability to reason or solve problems, but instead we are now, through the use of computers, able to work at a higher level to solve more complex problems.
In doing research for this topic, I discovered several articles opposing the idea of excessive use of computers, for example:
According to the National Endowment for the Arts, literary reading declined 10 percentage points from 1982 to 2002 and the rate of decline is accelerating. Many, including Patricia Greenfield, a UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children's Digital Media Center, Los Angeles, believe that a greater focus on visual media exacts a toll. ‘A drop-off in reading has possibly contributed to a decline in critical thinking,’ she says. ‘There is a greater emphasis on real-time media and multitasking rather than focusing on a single thing. (Quote in Greengard 18)
One important aspect of the computers is the Internet, and Websites such as Google and Wikipedia provide many people with information. Michael Bugeja, director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University of Science and Technology, says, our critical thinking can be improved significantly by using the correct technology. On the other hand, he also says that we are faced with so much information and surrounded by so many electronic devices that it is becoming harder and harder to focus on one thing for more than just a moment. ‘We are overwhelmed by a constant barrage of devices and tasks.’ Worse: ‘We increasingly suffer from the Google syndrome. People accept what they read and believe what they see online is fact when it is not.’(Quote in Greengard 19)
With so much information in the Internet, it is easy to see why Michael Bugeja is concerned about people misinterpreting opinions for facts. However, there is a growing set of communities that rely on credibility ratings. For example, in Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, anyone can register to add or edit an article. If an entry with obscene content or content that only reflects an opinion is entered, it is quickly taken offline by the websites administrators. This provides a social check and balance to the web site, keeping the articles reasonably free of inaccurate or misleading information.
Some experts say that nowadays the use of computers and the Internet has brought information overload that hinders our ability to focus. Nicholas Carr, a scholar, authored a cover story for the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 2008 entitled, “Is Google Making us Stupid?” he argues that he feels his friends have trouble focusing on long pieces of writing because of their overexposure to the internet. (2) I think Nicolas is wrong. Google allows us to be more creative in approaching problems and more integrative in our thinking. We spend less time trying to recall and more time generating solutions.
We are still dealing with the amount of information that is being generated each day. As more and more people become connected through the Internet, we might be tempted to think that we will drown in this information overload. However, experiences will continue to come at us, and we are still developing