10 October 2014
Intelligence and the Web The human brain is a marvelously complex system, through which people are gifted with their own power of cognition. Through the development of technology, humanity has created its own complex systems that serve, essentially, as extensions of the brain. Computers give access to a place where the thoughts, opinions, and emotions of all people can be painted onto an openly accessible canvas. This allows people to connect and communicate with others who are of different cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles. Intelligence is gained through the process of cognition, and the internet serves as a common medium where our brains can access and process all sorts of information. Computers have become commonplace and relied on because of their undeniable and ever increasing usefulness. Nicholas Carr, an American writer who has published books and articles on technology, business, and culture, recognizes the widespread use and advancement of computers, and concludes his article in The Atlantic titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by writing “As we come to rely on computer to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence” (Carr 7). Computers significantly aid humans in many ways and give access to an openly writable medium which invites depth in conversation and intelligence. Nicholas Carr fails to see this truth and misinterprets his observations, leading to his flawed conclusion that computers and technology are flattening our intelligence.
Historically, new technology has commonly been feared, and this inevitability holds true even today. This is exemplified by Nicholas Carr’s article in The Atlantic, as the basis for his entire article stems from a fear that technology is flattening, and will continue to flatten, human intelligence. When Hewlett-Packard created the first pocket sized scientific calculator called the HP-35 in 1972, it was banned from many engineering classrooms because it was felt that this device would be solely relied on, and the students would be disconnected from the relationship to the concepts that somehow came from completing the calculations by hand. This idea has been clearly proved wrong by examining the new technological advances that have stemmed from the benefits of allowing those engineers to waste less time performing superfluous tasks and spend more time creating. New technologies and computer processes are tools that increase productivity, and allow the users to create more complex tools to aid future creations. In his article, Carr references what Socrates said in Plato’s Phaedrus regarding his discontent for the development of writing. Socrates feared that writing would cause people to “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And that they would have access to and be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” Which would cause them to “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” Also they would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom” (Socrates). Socrates had a pessimistic view regarding one of the most fundamental technological advancements in history, and although what he believed was proved to have a small amount of truth, the benefits of writing have completely outweighed the small consequences that Socrates predicted. Carr’s beliefs about modern technology seem to have some similarities to Socrates’ beliefs, and their opinions both share pessimistic attitudes towards advancement that are blind to the fact that these new technologies can actually provide depth and understanding in humans for the future. Carr argues that the internet has caused people to regularly “skim” and “bounce” around articles and documents, rather than immersing themselves completely into a single article. He worries greatly about this, and feels that people are no longer reading “In the