Road Ahead: What Is The Web Doing To Our Brains

“We want to make Google the third half of your brain.” –
Sergey Brin, Google’s Co-founder. –NY Times Sept. 9, 2010The Road Ahead: CGI Waves
CGI Waves Photo by: Gerard

Illogical as it sounds, Brin’s quip, prompted by the introduction of a new nearly-intuitive Google app that approaches search as fast as the brain can think, may someday come true. Research has shown, “When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting down time that could allow them to better learn and remember information or come up with new ideas,” Matt Richtel reports in another NY Times piece. Instead, as Kit Yarrow in her book “Generation BuY,” notes, the constantly connected millennials, rely on Google and Wikipedia to answer their questions. This is going to become even easier to do with a portion of our “brains” floating above us waiting to be asked.

“Cloud computing,” as defined by the Center For Media Research, “is the usage of remote server-based, rather than desktop-based, tools and information. Software and data is virtually stored on the Internet, meaning computer users do not need to download any software or maintain a physical database to store information. That, thanks to the development of mobile devices, will be the future of the internet according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center. A solid majority of technology experts and the general public participating in the survey expect cloud computing will mostly replace desktop computing by 2020,” the Center for Media Research reports.

Steve Lohr, writing for The New York Times on the interaction of people and evolving media technology (Now Playing: The Night of The Living Tech), quotes Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the M.I.T. Media Lab: ‘I love my iPad but my ability to read any long-form narrative has more or less disappeared, as I am constantly tempted to check my e-mail, look up words or click through.”

For more on the effects of new media technology, Gavin O’Malley, in another MediaPost piece, offers excerpts from a new book by Nicholas Carr, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.” Among them: “People who read hypertext comprehend and learn less…than those who read the same material in printed form. …The more links in a piece of writing, the bigger the hit to our comprehension.” … “I examine the hyperlink as just one element among many — including multimedia, interruptions, multitasking, jerky eye movements, divided attention, extraneous decision making, even social anxiety — that tend to promote hurried, distracted, and superficial thinking online.”  And lastly, “To understand the effects of the Web on our minds, you have to consider the cumulative effects of all these features rather than just the effects of any one individually.”