Solely In Black and White: It’s the Internet, Stupid!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It’s the Internet, Stupid!

From the Wall Street Journal: Does the Internet Make You Smarter or Dumber?

Has the internet eroded our standards for quality in writing and art? Possibly:

 …amateurs produce endless streams of mediocrity, eroding cultural norms about quality and acceptability, and leading to increasingly alarmed predictions of incipient chaos and intellectual collapse.

But on the upside:

The Net, in fact, restores reading and writing as central activities in our culture.
The present is, as noted, characterized by lots of throwaway cultural artifacts, but the nice thing about throwaway material is that it gets thrown away. This issue isn't whether there's lots of dumb stuff online—there is, just as there is lots of dumb stuff in bookstores. The issue is whether there are any ideas so good today that they will survive into the future.

So what’s your take on this, has the internet made you smarter or dumber?  


  1. You're giving a skewed picture by only linking to the "smarter" article and not the "dumber" article. My take is the internet has made us dumber, less focused, and less in tune with reality...and just, overall, less.

  2. Overall, I think the Internet has shortened our attention spans, and possibly lowered our writing standards and abilities as well. Not to minimize the positive contributions of the internet to society...

    Bottom line, it's how you use it. The benefits definitely outweigh the disadvantages.

  3. @SIS:
    Agreed. (Fine I added the “dumb" link to the post) What can I say? I am biased; I think the internet has made me smarter because I have learned many intelligent things as well as read many fantastic pieces of writing… (Like some people’s blogs… ahem)

    But hasn’t it increased the amount we read as well?

  4. no because we read more blogs and less of everything else.

    definitely dumber.

  5. It may have increased the amount we read, but the quality of this reading material can be much lower than what we might read in print. Standards are more relaxed on the internet, especially since a lot of the material is self-published (and therefore the only editorial standards are those set by the writer-publisher).

    On a side note, the amount of information that we consume may have increased, but how much of it is truly valuable? And how much do we actually retain? I would venture that both the value and amount of information retained has declined to some degree.

    If used correctly, though, the Internet can definitely enhance your quality of life, as with most technological innovations.

  6. What we read is entirely our choice. I prefer to read intelligent content, but I assume others marvel in content which is sub-par to say the least. That doesn’t make people smart or dumb, but people who are disposed to a certain way of life will have a habit of building on that… But that is not to say that internet is any worse than a library where there are both stupid books and intelligent books. Furthermore, not everything printed is worth the paper that the ink is sitting on. ;-)

    Information overload is a known issue with the internet, but it will be interesting to see how that plays out with cognitive functions over the course of time and how we adapt.

    Oh, and Anonymous, I also think people lose some of their reading comprehension abilities with ample internet usage… like that little paragraph above the comment box… :-P

  7. Knowledge-wise, I think it's made us smarter.

    In our capacity to concentrate and communicate properly, especially for those born into the "tech generation," it's definitely been a detriment.

  8. I think the internet has made me smarter, possibly less focused and less patient but definitely smarter. IMO, what puts the internet ahead of any other medium of publication, is the lack of "editorial standards". We get to read things written by real, normal (well, sometimes anyway) people, not just the elitist "intellectuals". I would say that the editorial page of almost any major newspaper in America, on a regular basis, contains opinions that make all of it's readers dumber. The fact that these opinions are written in "respectable" publications gives them more weight with the public, which is ridiculous. Of course it all depends on how you use it, there is a tremendous amount of stupid material on the internet.

  9. Some of the editorials are thought-provoking and worthwhile. Also, it's important to understand opposing points of view in order to more effectively argue one's own opinions.

    Although it would seem easier to read more material from a wider range of viewpoints, often times people wind up reading a lot of material that reflects their own opinions.

    The communication benefits and overall utility provide the most value. Being able to stay in touch with friends half-way around the word is priceless - especially when it can be done face-to-face for free.


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