Are the internet & smart tech making us smarter or dumber? – understanding their impact

    “Siri, get directions to the closest supermarket.” “Alexa, read me the news.” If this is not how you do everyday things, do you even belong to this age?

    We all rely on the internet and smart technology to do the most routine tasks, along with the professional and more complex ones. Every aspect of our lives, from education, work, entertainment and more, is dependent on the internet and technology. But why is it that despite all their features, abilities, and access to information, they are repeatedly blamed for the decline in our capacity to think, analyse, and remember? Like everything else, technology too has its pros and cons. 

    In his famous 2010 book, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” Nicholas Carr suggested that the internet specifically, was making us dumber. By making unlimited information available at our fingertips, it was reducing our capacity to think and remember. But are the internet and smart technology causing a decline in our collective intelligence? Are they more of a curse than a boon to the human race? Not exactly.

    After years and years of debate over the positives and negatives of technology, many studies have concluded that the internet and smart technology may be doing more good than harm to our brains. Moreover, the internet gives diverse populations of people anywhere in the world, equal access to information and society. American author and technologist David Weinberger believes that the internet has given us powerful new tools with which to think more deeply about any subject we want. It helps us make smarter decisions by making real-time, constantly updated information from inexhaustible sources available at a touch. 

    However, a downside of the internet is that information is not always verified or accurate. But that is where our intelligence is put to the test. Researching and fact-checking to find the correct and verified information from credible sources requires speed, intelligence, and precision. With practice, searching for accurate information, fact-checking, and making decisions based on that information in a matter of minutes, only makes us smarter and more knowledgeable. One particular phenomenon that indicates that the introduction of the internet and technology has led to an increase in intelligence in the population is the famous Flynn Effect. It shows that people are getting smarter over time as the mean IQ scores have been observed to be steadily increasing generation after generation. 

    Technology has also changed the way education is delivered. Students no longer have to study from fat, old textbooks but can learn from the internet and by using smart technology like VR and AI, all of which makes learning a lot easier and more interesting. It is little wonder that exam results are far higher than what they used to be before the introduction of smart tech. This has also led to more people achieving higher education and qualifications than before, thereby improving the overall intelligence and knowledge of the general population. 

    Yes, the internet and technology have their downsides. They have made us lazier and more impatient. But have they made us dumber? As several studies suggest, probably not. 

    Which side are you on? 

    Read more tech articles and news in the city and the world by visiting Biztech, the official business and technology forum of Milton Keynes.

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