I must admit, upon reading the title of this article my immediate, subconscious reaction was a resounding "YES". This stance was summed up nicely toward the end of the article when the author discusses Plato's Phaedrus in which Socrates "bemoaned the development of writing." His fear was people would substitute books for personal knowledge, taking for granted the abundant availability of information in text form. Though this contention is clearly laughable this day-and-age, I believe the fundamental stance echoes today with the evolution of the internet. I fear many replace their desire for structured learning with the immediate access to a broad base of information on the internet.
In reality this article addresses whether or not the internet, and it's accessibility encapsulated by the functionality of Google, is changing the way our minds work, as opposed to making us "stupid". It suggests our minds are adapting to the easy accessibility of such a broad base of information by focusing quickly and superficially. That we tend to multi-task and maintain a shallow depth on any one topic/subject. That people who have adapted to the internet to access information no longer read books or articles of great length, rather they prefer to access the exact information they need when they need it via Google, or other search tools.
Though we rely on primarily qualitative data to make these contentions at this point, awaiting more in-depth studies, I think it's fairly clear these points have a great deal of merit. I certainly related with the author when he reflected on his inability to focus intensely on any long piece of literature, his mind tending to wonder and his preference to multi-task. As a matter-of-fact during the time I read the article and posted to this blog I returned 2 text messages, 3 e-mails, and took a phone call, clearly my level of focus could be brought into question.
So, the real question posed here is will fears of the internet's negative impact on our cognitive ability prove to have merit, or will they shadow Socrates’ fear of the written word in Phaedrus? Personally, as I've mentioned, I think the contention that the internet is changing the way our minds work has a lot of merit and will likely continue for some time. As far as having a negative impact on our cognitive abilities, or making us "stupid" I'm not so sure. Thinking differently does not necessarily make us stupid. I believe the broad availability of information, whether it be written word, internet, Google, Wikipedia, etc., is a good thing, The easier the accessibility the better. I believe this access will breed greater innovation and more impactful developments in the future.
What do you think? If you were born today, with the level of access we are afforded, how would your upbringing have changed? Do you think your long-term capabilities would be impacted? Negatively/positively?