Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Does google make you stupid ?

The great thing about the internet and clever search engines like google means that it's possible to get reliable information on practically any topic under the sun. This is great news, because you don't need to clog your head with tons of facts, when it's so easy to look them up ! Or is this such a good thing ? After all, isn't it important to acquire a core store of information which resides in your brain, rather than on a PC ? Is google making all of us stupid because we no longer bother to retain information ?

I agree that search engines will make the acquisition and retention of facts much less important. While this is a valuable skill, cramming and memorising is a low-level cognitive skill which a computer can do much more efficiently and reliably than humans can. The easy access to information means you can then free up your brain's computing power and use this for high-level tasks, such as creating unique viewpoints and looking at knowledge with a new perspective. These are high level skills, which are uniquely human, and can add much more value.

Also, this easy access to information means that non-specialists also have access to information which was originally available to professionals only. This "outsider" viewpoint can provide a great way of encouraging disruptive innovation !

A lot of my patients will unearth valuable nuggets of information on the net, which they then sbring to may attention. They act as my personal research assistants, stimulate my thinking and keep me on my toes !

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