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Is the Google era making me dumber?

by kmkper / October 9, 2013 6:37 AM PDT

I have expressed on my post as how so much i depend on google everyday - and why i am concerned about it.

My question is, am i alone on this subject or anyone out there with me thinks the same way - too much googling for solving technical issues make you feel dumber?

Note: This post was edited by a forum moderator to edit subject line on 10/16/2013 at 4:38 PM PT

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Clarification Request
Is Google making me dumber?
by claude_chepil / October 18, 2013 9:35 AM PDT

I would agree that it does in a sense due to ones own laziness. It is just so easy to use Google rather than thinking for ones self

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Just ask Google
by btljooz / October 18, 2013 1:46 PM PDT

....and they will be the first to point out that "Google" is a NOUN and NOT a Verb.

There are so many more search engines than just Google. I really have very little need for Google because I use DuckDuckGo and Ixquick. If I think I need to use "Google" I use Startpage, instead.

Now that we have that straight, I think that the more precise question is, "Is the internet making me dumber?"

The internet is a tool just like encyclopedias and other books. It's just in digital form rather than analog/paper form. Within the toolbox that the internet is there are search engines. They all are just tools.

It really seems to depend upon the person using the tool at hand/the internet as to what they get out of it. If they actively search for knowledge they will find it and be able to use it. A lot of folks would rather just play in Faceless, play games or mess around in the back alleys of the internet. In those cases, I can see the internet making people dumber or at least bringing out 'dumbness'/deliberate stupidity in them. Again, it just boils down to the user and how/why he/she uses the internet as to whether or not they actually learn anything or what the results will be.

For my use, I find the internet a place rich with new knowledge because that what I actively use the internet for. I could care less about Faceless, Twitterlings, games or what-have-you. I actively seek knowledge about any given subject so that I learn and am able to make better decisions. The information I can find on the internet is usually more varied and more in depth than a simple article in an encyclopedia. Therefore, I learn more.

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Google is a verb
by ackmondual / October 18, 2013 2:34 PM PDT
In reply to: Just ask Google

On the contrary, "Google" was added as a verb to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2006, so that's technically correct.

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by yogunny / October 18, 2013 3:49 PM PDT
In reply to: Google is a verb

'Google' is a noun and 'google' the verb.

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The verb "to Google"
by eobodger / October 18, 2013 8:36 PM PDT
In reply to: Just ask Google

It has been said that "there isn't a noun in the English language that cannot be verbed."

I agree that this usage is often ugly and should normally be discouraged, but it is a consequence of the extreme adaptability of English. I remain something of a linguistic dinosaur, wincing when the pilot says we'll be "touching down momentarily" -- I want the touch-down to be a smooth landing, not immediately followed by a return to the air. But the fact is that the language has adapted since the days of Tyndale and Shakespeare, adding new usages to cope with new concepts (like Googling!).

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Did you read the question?
by velikhan / October 18, 2013 11:07 PM PDT
In reply to: Just ask Google

Almost a great post. Too bad, it has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the original question.

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I agree
by Grace-65 / October 22, 2013 6:20 AM PDT

I was beginning to think my computer jumped to another post. I am not interested in chasing rabbits either. Let's talk about Does the internet make me dumber?

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internet changes the way we think and learn
by j2callie / October 18, 2013 11:49 PM PDT
In reply to: Just ask Google

I agree that I no longer bother to remember much of anything I can just look up, and whenever I have an idle (or serious) curiosity, my first thought is to google it. I love being able to look up anything that tickles my fancy, and not having to remember how to convert Fahrenheit to Centigrade. But we know that finding it on the net doesn't mean it's valid information, and using spell check doesn't mean your spelling will be correct. But it goes deeper than that; neuronal pathways in the brain are actually changed.
I'm in the middle of reading a book that addresses exactly how the brain is physically affected by any changes in the way we access information, from when mankind changed from speaking to writing to reading, and now to multimedia. I recommend The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember, by Nicholas Carr. Here's an article by the author when his book was released:

<div>It's not that we're getting "dumber" but we think and learn differently. He says,

" But our dependence on the internet has a dark side. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the net, with its constant distractions and interruptions, is turning us into scattered and superficial thinkers."


Even academic research is narrowed by reliance on digital sources. In addition, Google's weighting of search results by popularity means that a lot of information of potential interest is buried on page 2. Turns out too that, far from enhancing learning:</div>

People who read text studded with links, the studies show, comprehend less than those who read words printed on pages. People who watch busy multimedia presentations remember less than those who take in information in a more sedate and focused manner."</div>
Fascinating --- not that I can give up googling.

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The word Google is how it is used
by bullfrog71 / October 19, 2013 1:39 AM PDT
In reply to: Just ask Google

Regardless what Google, the company, says (i.e., a noun) it is how people use the word. In the 'real world,' which is what ultimately matters, Google is both a noun and a verb.

Frankly, if I spent less time on the Internet 'Googling' I'd actually be healthier physically and mentally. I would read more rather than jumping up to research a relative piece of trivia. I would be emotionally happier not dealing with updates and glitches not to mention that I would be financially better off. The Internet has done much to encourage spending money on stuff that we don't really need. It's a good tool for capitalism generally

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the internet is a tool
by camp066 / October 19, 2013 1:55 AM PDT
In reply to: Just ask Google

Agree that the question is, "Is the internet making me dumber?"

Calculators came out after I graduated from school. An analogous question is, "Did calculators reduce our math skills?" The answer is generally yes. But I wouldn't them up. They enable us to do more accurate calculations than with a slide rule and do them faster. Obtaining information, storing and accessing it definitely required more work and thought (and some craftiness!) in the past than now. Would I give it up? Heck no. I have found more answers to problems, from research, to engineering to fixing appliances than I could possibly found in prior times. Pricing items and reading reviews also gives me insights that were not previouly possible. And on line stock trading is so much better than dealing with a brokerage.

And I use Google. There is some skill required in framing your search criteria to ferret out the answer you need.

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Google still has a grip on you.
by relmasian / October 19, 2013 3:48 AM PDT
In reply to: Just ask Google

Google has a bigger grip than you realize. For example, see
which explains "Startpage ( combines the powerful search results of Google with the strong privacy features of Ixquick, the world's most private search engine. The result is great search results - with total privacy protection!"

That said, the search pages you cite repackage Google so that your ID is not recorded and you do not have to deal with ads which target you. There are Google alternatives for seach, the largest being Bing. However, Google is often the 800 pound gorilla in the search room even when it is not obvious.

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by btljooz / October 19, 2013 7:11 AM PDT

Yes, Startpage "repackages" Google searches by doing the search for you and then delivering the results to you without sending your unique computer ID to Google. What's so wrong about keeping our searches private the way they should be?

But, I think that you are rather remiss in not including a synopsis of the TOS/Privacy Policy of StartPage's parent company, Ixquick and DuckDuckGo (be sure to click the link to DDG's Privacy Policy which is embedded in that page. If you're not careful, you just may learn something new!) Neither of them search Google. They are stand alone search providers who have absolutely nothing to do with Google, other than that Ixquick has taken Scroogle's place in searching Google for a person in a completely separate process they call Startpage. All three keep your privacy as private as possible which is the way it should be. And to help make them even more private, HTTPS versions of them can be found in Firefox Add-ons and possibly other browser search add-ons, too.

But none of this has anything to do with the question about how Google/the internet affects people's ability to assimilate and process the instant information that these tools provide. So, tell me...How are you doing at that?

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Just ask Google
by dunadan0000 / October 20, 2013 4:56 AM PDT
In reply to: Just ask Google

I very much agree with the response above stating that the internet is a rich source of information and that this is not really a Google issue. Google doesn't make me smarter or dumber; it and a number of other search engines including Google Scholar make information available more easily than driving to the library or searching one journal/magazine/website at a time. However, I am still the one who has to be responsible for evaluating the search's adequacy and the sense or nonsense of the information supplied.

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Is Google making me dumber?
by Grace-65 / October 22, 2013 6:44 AM PDT
In reply to: Just ask Google

I think that all the internet technology is making all of us dumber. We are learning how to push buttons and none of the processes. Example: When I was in school we were NOT allowed to use a calculator to do ANY of our math. We had to learn the process of how we calculated the answers to the math problem. Take, for example, the majority of people in their 30's & younger have no idea of how to make change unless they look at the terminal that tells them how much to give. What are we going to do when the electricity goes down for any length of time and none of the employees that have to make change or count up a bill have no clue how to calculate those figures without the computer, calculator, or any other device that DOES IT FOR THEM? The day is coming when our entire country will be paralized because our children rely way too much on devices to do all their thinking for them. We will be in a sad state of affairs if the lights go out. What will they do, they have no idea how to survive? Yes, I do believe the internet makes all of us dumber, even though most want to believe they are so much more intelligent than their parents or grand-parents. Sad state of affairs we are in.

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sensible searches
by astrumtourer / October 19, 2013 12:01 AM PDT

I must admit that google is great for relational navigation and some querky ideas for networking. take onekey for example, a simple search engine that gives relative information in regard to a learning environment. Then there is infoplease which is great for calculations and text converters for languages are also convenient rather than a encyclopedia or rosetta stone type translation book/cd. as for dumb and whatever they are different references as if you do a google search you may find buthoon, idiot, screw loose, dumbo, newbie, stupid, ignorant, deft hand, gumbie, ****** to name a few, DON't do a search on dumb, do a search on intelligence instead.

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It depends
by Call_Me / October 21, 2013 11:57 PM PDT

As some have written, if you're spending your day looking at youtube videos, porn or gossip websites, than I guess that particular person was dumb and lazy to begin with. It's just easier and cheaper for them to waste time from their computer than walking out of their home to buy a gossip rag or visit an adult book store.

Then, there are the people that are using websearches in the identical way they would have with trade publications, friends/family, and the library: intense research.

For instance: my daughter's roommates wanted to create their very own Thanksgiving but NONE of the girls in their dorm had ever done any mega-meal preparation for the holidays...all they had ever done when they lived at home was sit back, let Mum make it and devour it. So, for weeks prior to the holiday, the girls contacted Gran and Mum for recipes BUT, went to actual cooking videos to see "How to cook a turkey?" and "How to stuff a turkey?" They made Thanksgiving for 50 friends and it turned out flawlessly because they did so much research and video studying. Their families were 100's or 1000's of miles away, so having Mum by your side wasn't possible.
I own my own landscape firm. Before the web, I'd do a minimum of 10-20 hours of research from both my home office (trade mags) or a drive to the library. The problem was, the information available in print was dated the second it was published, so if you needed 2013 information on a particular plant cultivar, you were out of luck if neither YOU or the library had any publications on them.
Enter the web. I use *bing* exclusively (bonus points and cool daily photos) for all my research. I can be at a nursery, see a new plant that I've never seen, queue up my tablet to do a quick search, and have instant NOW information at hand. Not only does the web make me smarter, it makes me RICHER!!!! lol
No matter what is out there, some people will abuse it: fast food, casinos, booze, drugs or the web. Then, there are the majority of people who will have a single drink, only use Advil, buy a Lotto ticket once a year, and use the web for hard-core research.
So, "Yes", Google may be making the original poster dumber but "No!", it's not making >me< dumber.

All Answers

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So let's go back a few years.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / October 9, 2013 6:44 AM PDT

Would you say me going to a library to find answers made us dumber as well?

And before that we would ask the folk around us.

In my view it's not much different as years gone by. The only thing I bump into now are those that won't give it a try before they ask.

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Google making me Dumber?
by Ron Geiken / October 18, 2013 9:32 AM PDT

Google Search is a real time saver for me. When I want a quick answer to give me the information that I need, I just Google it and get a wide variety of pages that may have the information that I need. Google Search is probably one of the most valuable tools that I use of the Internet. It keeps you from wasting time chasing false leads and lets you research more extensively and faster than almost any other method. If the Google Search lists a result that goes to Wikipedia, I probably look at that too. Most of the time the Wikipedia information is unbiased and frequently more thorough than other sites listed. Anyone that doesn't take advantage of Google Search is proving themselves to be dumber!!!

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and don't forget encyclopaedias
by Vivera9 / October 19, 2013 9:49 PM PDT

I think your answer in it's brevity was spot on. Did Britannica Encyclopaedias make folk dummer? Any reference surely has to be a good thing.

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So let's go back a few years.
by Grace-65 / October 22, 2013 6:59 AM PDT

Going to the library or inquiring in your own library was active involvement. Are you willing to ask any of these young folks answers? Only questions I would ask them is where can I find this on the internet or how to fix my computer. I would be very cautious of the answers they may give me too. Young folks may know better how to push buttons and which ones but I think it is much better to be able to sit down with a pencil & paper and dig it out of my own head. I am 66 years old and I know more about the computer than many of these young folks that have been on them almost since birth. I have only been exposed since 2005, except for the certificate I earned in accounting & microcomputers in 1989 at business school. We worked on the computer with ms-dos, floppy discs, etc. We had to KNOW the info , not just press another button & problem solved. Seems like its all handed to young folks today on a silver platter.

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Google is a big help in more ways than one
by flightwave / October 18, 2013 9:22 AM PDT

NO - definitely it will NOT make you dumber. Google and Wikipedia is a Godsend to search for info which, in turn, increases your knowledge - it's great for students! I remember years ago having to spend hours in the library searching for stuff I needed. Students today have iit made! Enjoy!

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Me too and my spelling
by franciemr / October 18, 2013 9:29 AM PDT

is beginning to lack. I find myself always checking things on the internet. If any question comes to mind, any problem, a health issue, etc--I go online. Before I buy anything major and often just for items that aren't expensive but may be a 1st time buy (like a printer, a blender, an iron). I am so accustomed to spell check that I am careless with my spelling. I am so used to spelling shorts cuts for texting that I find myself always writing in that manner. I even sided with my 12 year old nephew when he said learning cursive was a waste of time since all his school work was performed on a PC. He asserted all he needed to know was how to "hand write" his name for a signature. I did not tell him that electronic signatures are legally acceptable in many cases. So, yes, we are relying on search engines and media more and more. I agree that the internet has become the world's library. I just draw the at line at it replacing social interaction or people being glued to their phones when in the company of others

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by btljooz / October 18, 2013 1:26 PM PDT
In reply to: Me too and my spelling

Ask yourself one question and then pose it to your son: What would you do if the internet were taken away from you tomorrow? ....for whatever reason.... That is good enough reason to learn to do things "the old fashioned way". Not only that but it makes it easier to understand what the computing device being used is doing and how to get it to do it that way. As for cursive. It's an art form...always has been and always has been. Mischief

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Other facts against cursive writing
by bluemist9999 / October 19, 2013 9:51 PM PDT
In reply to: Me too and my spelling

I saw these on 20/20 a few years ago:
- Cursive is said to be faster. This is completely NOT true. For students who never learn cursive, their printing is as fast as cursive
- Cursive is said to be more "unique" for identification. This is also not true. When writing in print, there are qualities which uniquely identify someone.

As for the main topic:
It depends on what we mean by "dumb." If we mean "We do not memorize as many specific facts as we used to." then, the answer is yes. Many people, including myself, don't focus on specific facts nearly as much. But, in my case, I never cared for or focused much on facts before using the Internet (i.e. specific historical details, names of famous people, etc), so there is no change.

The more interesting question is how has the Internet affected the way we think. Has it encouraged a far greater breadth of knowledge while sacrificing depth of knowledge? I think it has to a degree. And, frankly, I think that is a positive thing. Many of the greatest innovations today seem to come from people who can take unrelated silos of knowledge and combine them to produce something new (i.e. biological concepts used in programming = genetic algorithms).

From a scientific research perspective, if we only have "deep" research, the end result are a large number of "silos" of research with nothing connecting them. Now, granted, if we have no deep research that is also a bad thing because there will be nothing to relate. But I'm sure there are still plenty of people who do the in depth research. We just have more people who can connect the dots.

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by DADSGETNDOWN / October 18, 2013 9:31 AM PDT

Along with the digital age, Cell phones, Etc,
Absolutely. Details would require a few large books.

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usefulness depends on the user
by aeromannh / October 18, 2013 10:36 AM PDT
In reply to: Absolutely

All of the things you describe here are tools and resources. You can use them to get smarter (e.g. solve problems), or do stupid things, or to endanger your life (like texting while riding your bike on the street). The choice is yours. There are no doubt a lot of stupid users with great devices, but that doesn't mean you can't use them to get smarter.

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No, I think it makes you broader
by aeromannh / October 18, 2013 9:37 AM PDT

I use google to address many kinds of problems. It may not (or may) inspire original thought, but I find it gives you lots of alternative strategies for attacking problems, which you can then synthesize to come up with solutions, or even learn take steps to avoid certain problems in the first place (maybe picking up some config tips). But the best thing about Google for me is all the side things I learn while I am solving a problem.

I don't know if this is due to my thirst for broad knowledge and diverse perspectives, or I just have too much time on my hands. Wink

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Not using Google is dumber
by manperez / October 18, 2013 9:43 AM PDT

Some people don't use Google or any other way to actively get information. They simply watch TV, movies, etc.
and slowly lose their ability to analyze information and stop developing "critical thinking skills".
Of course, this can also happen if you use Google (or Yahoo, Bing, etc.) and only read and use the first answer that pops up.

If you are collecting information in order to reach your own decisions, you can multiply your "smarts", and be more knowledgeable and capable in your life. Self-schooling is definitely a possibility! A friend of mine uses You Tube to learn to play guitar, learn a foreign language, and explain mathematical problems. Yahoo, Bing, Google, etc. actually put a humongous library at your disposal, full of fiction, non fiction and reference materials, (which are sometimes misclassified, as can happen in a real book library).

My suggestion is that you USE search engines to find INFORMATION you need to FIND SOLUTIONS.
As you find solutions, your brain learns to be more intelligent!

Good luck in your future searches!

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Filter Bubbles?
by seekercnet / October 18, 2013 12:03 PM PDT

Great points here that I agree with.

However, Google and some other search engines tend to give us results based on our previous search activity, who we are, and where we are...hence often giving us results that tend to be biased toward, and maybe reinforcing, our own thinking. Just being aware of this tends to help me be more objective in my searches.

Another option is to use a search engine like Duck Duck Go, which keeps no record of who you are, where you are, or your search history.

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Good luck if the power goes out
by Jeskickit / October 19, 2013 10:53 AM PDT

Our power grid is so vulnerable from solar flares, or terrorist attack etc., that people need to keep a real perspective on things. Also, depending on tech too much will produce a bunch of educated idiots, because no one will learn to think for themselves for deep problem solving. That said, a balance is what is needed. Being very smart doesn't do you much good if you aren't wise enough to know how to use it, should the lights go out. Can't take anything for granted, that would be like a Doctor giving himself a rectal exam... This isn't a criticism, it's just pure common sense.

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