The 'Google' paradox: is technology making us smarter?

AuthorHarris, Corey W.


In today's fast paced and dynamic environment, many of us find ourselves increasingly reliant on technology and automated data systems to function in our personal and professional lives. In many instances, our favorite electronic device, mobile app, or indispensable software program has made our lives easier and allowed us to focus our time and energy in other areas. In general, technology has created tangible and intangible benefits in our society but it has also presented some potential unintended consequences. According to an article entitled "Google Effect: is technology making us stupid?" Ms. Genevieve Roberts summarizes the findings of an experiment conducted by Ms. Betsy Sparrow, Ms. Jenny Liu, and Mr. Daniel M. Wegner which came to be known as the "Google Effect." This experiment was completed in 2011 among four groups of students at Columbia University and Harvard University, and the theory culminating from the study suggested that technology is changing the way we think and learn. In her article, Ms. Roberts offers several examples of how people have decided to rely on "Google" for answers and how this decision may affect our cognitive ability in our daily lives. Regardless of whether you buy into this theory, I think we need to examine whether our decision to rely on technology, instead of investing the time to learn and commit details to memory, is affecting our capacity to learn and execute our daily tasks.

The basic premise of the "Google Effect" is that people do not commit information to memory because they consciously or subconsciously take solace in the fact that a quick computer search will provide them with the answers they are seeking. Our electronic "aids," in essence, become extensions of our own memories and thought processes. Research has shown that more and more people are relying on automated tools such as "Spell Check" and "Auto Fill" when they are entering data, typing messages, etc. This has impaired some people's abilities to fully remember facts, spell words correctly, and other things which we traditionally gain through repetition and rote memorization. Nicholas Carr, author and 2011 Pulitzer Prize finalist, states that "human memory is not the same as the memory in a computer: it's through remembering that we make connections with what we know, what we feel, and this gives rise to personal knowledge. If we're not forming rich connections in our own minds, we're not creating...

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