Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Nicholas Carr’s article on the effects of Google, the last text you will read this summer, is longer and arguably more dense than the preceding four texts. Take your time over the next ten days with it, remembering that the goal is not exhaustive understanding but responsive thinking and discussion. Focus on his central argument about memory and the plasticity of your collective thinking first; then work your way through the many hyperlinks and references that develop that position. This is a bit of practice for the fall, when you will need to use the resources available to you—the Google-driven machinery Carr discusses—to flesh out your understanding of everything from writing prompts to my feedback. You might share some of your discoveries (e.g., about allusions or anecdotes or expert opinions) in the comments here, since that collaborative skill will be tested soon. (If you are looking for further reading on the subject, you might track down Carr’s The Shallows, a book that explores the same issues in more depth.)

You should also take notes in your compendium on how this essay relates to the start of our school year. Our district is investing in Google Apps for Education, training Google Educators, and outfitting classrooms with Chromebooks, and you are right now completing an AP summer assignment that is housed almost entirely online. These efforts put you ahead of an evolutionary curve in education that is (at least ostensibly) driven by a change in the way students learn. Weigh Carr’s reasoning against your own experience. I suspect you spent a good portion of this summer “foraging in the Web’s info-thickets,” as Carr phrases it; your thinking has been altered to some extent by that hypertextual exploration, and you might start with a kind of self-assessment of that change.

Two other notes about the last days of summer:

  1. Take an afternoon or two to read RJ Palacio’s Wonder. You should have already received this letter from the district; read it again now and take careful note of the questions asked. You might jot a few responses down in your compendium.
  2. Starting next Sunday, check this site for your syllabus, opening day materials, and a bit of work-in-progress feedback on these summer discussions.

106 responses to “Is Google Making Us Stupid?

  1. Liam Lonegan September 4, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    In most of the article, Carr includes reasons why Google is shaping the way we think, all into a more mechanical and computerized way. “When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating ‘like clockwork.’ Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating ‘like computers.'” We have come to know and love the Frederick Taylor way of living: everything is changed in order to create a more productive process. The thing is, we are visiting information at a faster pace and with this new technology, we are making great advancements in medicine, science, and (even more) computerized technology. We have found our so called “perfect algorithm.”

    But of course, one will say, “We are making all of these advancements, but at what cost?” Yes, we have created a society of new brains. The brains of this new society are able to point their attention in more directions than ever before. The new brains are not as stable as before; they can’t focus as much of their attention to one substance as before. They can’t dig as deep, but they can scratch the surface of the entire world.

    Google has vowed “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The faster, the smarter, the better, correct? Google is the Frederick Taylor of the twenty-first century, and it has adopted the goal from Taylorism, to “[create] a utopia of perfect efficiency.”

    I mean, there’s always Adderall, right? Pills are easily accessible at school and even though it’s illegal to administer unless one is prescribed, that doesn’t conclude that one will be apprehended. We can become better readers and with Google leading us, we shouldn’t have any doubts in our future!

    • Liam Lonegan September 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm

      I would just like the note that the post above included satire (more towards the end). I only took an extremely unpopular position to hopefully attract comments and even a conversation, if I was lucky.

  2. Joseph Oliveri September 4, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    I thought that the observations made in the articel were very intersting, relevant, and many I agreed with. I supposed , while reading the beginniong of the article, that the perspective being taken by Carr was one and a lot of other people our age have heard many times before, an adult whose take on what we think is modernity that was condescending and maybe a trifle ornery. However, Carr makes many intersting points. Personally, i have always had a strong affection for reading a good book, and doing so for long periods of time, and I usually don’t have an issue even though i often make use of the internet for many things in my life such as work for school and miscellaneous entertainment. Although I realized that the article was written by someone who was perhaps not as eased in or introduced to the internet and social media in same manner that we were during our lives, I thought the theory of technology’s ability was very thought provoking and was not surprised to see that it was the subject of fluent debate on this forum. Indeed, our culture, and our minds and learning processes, as Carr suggests, have truly been changed by our affiliation with technology. If the internet (and the next worse thing being electricty) was taken away from us, society would maybe crash into a primeaval anarchy… or so it would seem at first… would we have yet to discover like we had not yet done so before as Carr hints with his reference to scuba diving and jet skiing? I can also think of a redux: what if we were completley “artificially” intelligent? I concurr with Carr when he writes “…their easy assumption that we’d all “be better off” if our brains were supplemented, or even replaced, by an artificial intelligence is unsettling.” the outcome of that would be perhaps the same as if technology was confiscated from the human race. if we our cognitive abilities, emotions, and learning processes were controlled solely by a non-human entity, then chaos would somehow find a way to ensue. In other words, a dire importantce is that we use technology to as many advantages as possible, but not to let it become such a part of our culture that we become a part of it. A “resource” like cannot be completley avoided if you are a student, a professional in the work place, etc. but even though reading and researching may not be instinctive or genetic, the inclination to use adaptive technology as much as we can might as well be! As new inventions have arisen and taken over others, replacing other people’s idea or ideas of what the newest, quickest, fastest, or most efficient way of doing something might have been, our culture, I belive has shaped to them, rather than beocme controlled by them. i think that issues arise when an individual is too engrossed in the internet rather than when a society uses it to its fullest potentia…as carr mentions in the article, “the Net isn’t the alphabet, and although it may replace the printing press, it produces something altogether different..” In regards to our study on the human memory, I think Carr is trying to prove that it can be possible for excessive use of the internet to cause our memory and learning prcoess as an individual to evolve into to something very different than what it once was.

    • Bridget Stapleton September 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm

      Joseph, you made some really great points, especially “If the internet (and the next worse thing being electricty) was taken away from us, society would maybe crash into a primeaval anarchy… or so it would seem at first…” It’s so true. I feel we would be confused, unsure, who would be our google? Sure, somebody on earth knows what you need to know, or has written it out, but it would take more than a few simple clicks of a button. I do, however, think our culture would be better off trying to take a bit of a step back from the internet, using it just a little bit less, even for social sites. I know that after reading this article I’m definitely going to try to cut down on my internet use, even if it is for school.
      Anyway, Joseph I really liked the sentence you finished with as well. “I think Carr is trying to prove that it can be possible for excessive use of the internet to cause our memory and learning prcoess as an individual to evolve into to something very different than what it once was.” you summed up Carr’s point in a really cohesive and accurate way.

  3. Avery Pan September 4, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Even before reading the article, the point that the latest advancements in technology have completely transformed society was inevitable. Of course they have. However, the question that the article immediately poses, “is Google making us stupid?” completely depends on who you are. It’s important that one dives into this debate with an open mind, and considers how different each persons attack and usage of the internet can be. The average amount of time spent on the internet can range from 5 hours to 15 minutes. Is Google making us stupid? As a frequent user of Google, yes I can admit to quickly skimming over articles and blogs to find the specific answer to a question, but no I don’t think it has made me stupid. Also being someone who personally enjoys reading novels and uncovering hidden meanings in text, I’ve come to believe that it is key to maintain a balance between the two, and keep our skills intact. Everything in moderation has always been a moral my brother and I have been taught to keep in mind, and in this case it holds some truth. I don’t understand why Nicholas Carr is able to so easily question this invention but not others of the past. Has Thomas Edison’s creation of the light bulb inconvenienced us because instead of lighting a candle or a fire we waste little to no energy turning on a light? It almost bothers me that so many skeptics just like Carr exist to denounce an advancement so brilliant, while earlier inventions such as the television or the washing machine never came face-to-face with so many critics. Thought-provoking as it was and as important as it is for society to step back and take a closer look at what we’re doing, I’d like to see this unprecedented era of technology progress without too much interruption.

  4. Eiman Khan September 4, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    “Is Google Making Us Stupid” by Nicholas Carr’s is a captivating piece that really opened my eyes up. I was aware of how technology was taking over almost everything we do but I never noticed how the Internet really did change the way my thought process operates. Our brains are in fact processing like computers as Carr’s mentioned but whether or not it is a good thing can be debated. I personally think it’s great that we can access information at the click of a button but I do think that our way of process information as well as organizing it takes away from the “traditional” ways of understanding information. All in all this is just another chapter of evolution.

  5. Ariana Pagnotta September 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    After reading “Is Google Making us Stupid”, I found my answer to that question: Google isn’t making us stupid, just lazy. Quite honestly, I couldn’t focus on this article for very long. Many of us can’t read long passages or articles without losing focus and concentration. When it comes to homework, we’d rather use the internet than a textbook. It supplies the answers faster, without having to meticulously read through pages and pages of a book. Google has molded us to expect things to come faster and easier. I don’t think it’s made us dumb, just lazy.

    • Sara Lavelle September 4, 2012 at 10:02 pm

      I agree with you Ariana. Google is just one of the things in human life today that make us lazy. With it’s quick, on the point answers, who wants to read on and on about pointless information. We want things faster. Does that make us dumb? To be falling into that pattern, I believe makes us dumb. We should enjoy getting extra information. Google shouldn’t be to blame for making us dumb, we should be able to handle ourselves.

  6. Melanie Davis September 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    The article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr shows how todays technology is taking over our lives. The Internet is making people lazy in a way that they do not read but they skim through articles, books, etc. People have stopped getting that drive to read and now are learning ways around it. The Internet has adjusted to this new reading technique by adding hyperlinks and tags. They also have advertisements to distract people from reading if they are. Even in newspapers, changes have been made. This should alarm everyone in our society because the lack of reading has risen and reading is supposed to come to us almost as naturally as speaking. Now that reading is being avoided, it shows how easily things can be tossed aside or just maneuvered around. I believe that this article was written to show everyone how dependent our era is on technology. We use it, in a way, as a second brain. Almost every fact is on the Internet and this limits what we need to learn. Because of the fact that people are lazy, these people don’t feel the need to learn anything new because its all right in front of them on a computer. Especially for students, the Internet is used to quicken their research and other uses. Since we are going back to school, I feel that students should be aware of this factor in life and how important reading is. Therefore, the Internet is being overused and used for a brain, especially for students.

    • Will Kelmenson September 5, 2012 at 12:24 am

      I agree that technology has sort of taken over people’s lives. With this, reading has declined. However, is this even a bad thing? Why read when we can get all of our information so much more easily on the internet. In our society, we continually strive to make people’s lives easier and therefore better. In this way, the internet helps us immensely. People are always going to choose the easy way, which is fine, as long as it gets the job done.

  7. Sara Lavelle September 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Carr made amazing points throughout the article. As I was reading, I realize this relates to me as well. I use to be able to read books without missing a line but now I find myself actually skipping paragraphs. Maybe it could be the book is too boring but even with articles I find myself skipping paragraphs and ignoring boring facts or long descriptions, I just bring myself right to the point of the story. Which is what google does. When you google something, you get your answer. You don’t need to read on and on. You look for exactly what you want at that exact moment. I think google however is very helpful but if abused can be hurtful. Imagine going back when computers weren’t too big and there were only a few in libraries. Everyone is checking out books for their projects, reading page after page not missing a line because they can’t miss where the fact they need might be. Now, walk into a library and everyone is on the internet. If you need facts, what kid now wants read so much to find what they’re looking for. It’s like when you’re watching tv and all you want to do is fast foward through commercials. You want to get straight to the facts. Does that make us dummy? Personally, I think so. It’s important the art of reading properly and getting everything you can out of it. However, if used correctly, google is a great help to all of us.

  8. Jack Kelly September 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” was a very thought provoking piece, it makes me think of the life myself and my peers are living. However, I don’t believe google is making people stupid, but just more or less lazy. Like most other things the internet has it’s pros and cons, for example, the internet has uncountable distractions avaliable at the push of a button and also many sources may claim to be correct, but majority aren’t. On the other side, the iternet makes information much easier to find in it’s billions of archives and databases, it allows for faster connectionsand more organized records. A more day to day example would be just typing a word into a search bar to see if you spelt it right. With all the social and virtual connection comes disconnection from the real world, like computer games as oppose to actually going outside and being active.

  9. Kathryn Tassi September 4, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” was a really intriguing read that made me realize how dependent upon technology we have become and how much it effects the way we think. Ironically enough, as I was reading this article I struggled to read all thirty eight paragraphs without looking for something else to do and I often found myself questioning why he made this piece so long if even he has trouble reading short passages, in turn doing exactly what he was explaining. However, I don’t think Google is making people “stupid,” but it’s definitely reducing our attention span. The internet encourages skimming over large amounts of information until we find whatever we are looking for, and because of that this method is embedded into or minds and our attention spans seem to not want to focus on one thing for long. I don’t agree that Google is making us stupid; it’s definitely making us lazier but were not exactly losing our intelligence. Google plays a huge part in the growing amount of technology we have, but its not at complete fault for this. Technology as a whole seems more to blame, if there is even a point of putting something to blame, as we spend our days focused on using our phones, iPods, laptops, etc., as well as just the internet in general. Technology has a firm grasp on our generation; it provides a quick and easy way to obtain information as well as a distraction. However, despite the hold technology has over us, it’s not completely at fault. As humans we are evolving and constantly looking for improved way of doing things. We change ourselves to keep up with our surrounding, and technology plays a huge part of that. Our ability to focus and go into detail is gradually decreasing as we become more in tune with technology since we can find out information with the click of a button rather than spending time thinking about something. When we see technological advancements we don’t think about how drastically it’s going to change us, but rather we focus on the efficiency and convenience instead of thinking about how dependent we are getting on technology in general. Although, “Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self,” meaning we may read much more than in the past but since it’s a different form of reading it comes with a different attitude towards the text. We don’t put much thought into what we read anymore as our minds have been changed to think like we would had we been browsing for information on Google. We skim through documents to search for answers, not to provoke thoughts, and that’s become a mindset for when we do anything now. Google isn’t making us stupid; however, it is making us lazier and making us think more like a browser.

  10. Joseph Serrecchia September 4, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Unlike all the other parts of the assignment this one doesn’t focus on what our past has dont to make who we are. “Is Google Making Us Stupid” was in my eyes a perfect article for all of us to read to really show us what technology has done. It hasn’t made us stupider but It 100% made us lazier. I had trouble staying focused on this article the entire way through it. I’d find myself zoning out at points and simply just trying to think of anything else and do anything else that wasn’t involved with reading this long article. It really opened me up to see what technology has done. With google you could probably find a 5 paragraph article that summarizes everything that Carr stated, thats the sad part. When readers see something as long as this now a days you look at it and think “how much of this do I actually need”. Then you skim through and find only the important parts and completly don’t remember anything else. People look for the bare minimum. On the bright side google benifets us all by saving time. You can search things quicker and skim until you find what you need from a 4 page article in around 10 minutes if you want. This gives us more time to do other things which helps kids with their social lives. Even though it is a great tool google can be abused. People today use google for everything and dont bother searching through books for their information it takes to much time. Google gives information out quick and with ease making us all become lazier.

    • Bridget Stapleton September 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      I totally agree with you, especially on the point of it making us lazy, rather than stupid. I mean, for a paper for school, all we need to do is google a question, and most times, we don’t even need to click on a link from there! I believe a comedian said this, but I’ll reiterate, We don’t even need to type out our whole thought- google will just guess it for us. Although this technology is wonderful, and helps with advances in medicine and science, it is sadly turning our culture, slowly, apathetic and lazy.

  11. Catherine Caputo September 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    I find it ironic that Carr was talking about how he could barely sit through a blog post over 3 paragraphs, and I can’t even count how many this article had. I could sit through the first couple hundred paragraphs no problem, but after I had pretty much generated my response, I began to lose interest in the article. Think of that study where once the person had found what they needed, they moved on to another source. I like to believe that Google isn’t making us any less intelligent, but is changing the way we think and causing us to be less patient when finding information. As Carr said, we’ve been reading more, sure, but it’s in small doses that usually get straight to the point, think text messages, Facebook statuses, tweets, and so on. To build a classroom out of Google’s resources can, will, and does give us a whole new resource of information as opposed to using mandatory sites on a teacher’s webpage.

  12. Bridget Stapleton September 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”
    I read the title, and immediately thought yes, of course it is!
    Of course it isn’t just Google, it’s google and yahoo and apple and and youtube and wikipedia and, and, and the list goes on. So, I delved into this article all ready to simply agree with everything Nicholas Carr said, and just be done with it.

    Well, quite simply, I DO agree with most everything that Carr says in this article. Yes, I do think the internet and it’s always-readyness is not beneficial for something as gentle as the human mind. Carr takes this point to a whole new level, and really does an amazing job of hitting his point home.

    “The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.” When I was younger, my parents were those that limited my technology use. Not cut it off completely, but limit it so that I would be able to have a balanced lifestyle. And it worked; by second grade I had eaten up Little House on the Prairie and Nancy Drew, and by third grade I was reading Harry Potter. So, naturally, when I sat down to read Jane Eyre in 8th grade, I assumed there would be no issue and I would find it enjoyable. Instead, It was tedious to me, and to this day I haven’t read past chapter 12. I think the problem was that I had just received a new iPod touch for Christmas, the internet was at my disposal freely for the first time. Since then my attention span has been likened to that of a toothpick, while others argue that it’s much closer in comparison to a peach pit. I mean, I am posting what I am sure will be one of the last posts on this blog now, simply because in the beginning of the summer, I found the first few lines of Didion’s “On Keeping a Notebook” to be boring.

    Nicholas Carr’s article offered insight and both the emotional, and scientific sides of this argument, I found myself really enjoying this article, and, in fact, this summer assignment overall.

  13. Catherine Caputo September 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    I find it ironic how Carr stated he usually can’t sit through a blog post more than three paragraphs long, and “Is Google Making Us Stupid” was more than I could count. I sat through the first hundred just fine, but after a while, I started to lose interest and resorted to skimming the text. The experiment that he mentioned where the person would look through a topic, find what they needed, and move onto another source seems to be how we all gather information these days. I don’t think Google is causing us to lose any of our intelligence, but is changing the way we gather information, and has made us expectant of quick and easy answers. Not only that, but because of the way we use reading and writing everyday, through text messages, Facebook updates, tweets, and so on, we’re used to them in such small doses that anything this long feels monstrous and full of too much information.

  14. Will Kelmenson September 5, 2012 at 12:17 am

    This article really stood out to me because I could relate directly to it, and I’m sure many other people can as well. I used to read a lot. I could read an entire book and actually retain most of the information from it. Today, I find it very hard to concentrate while reading , and often have to go back and reread paragraphs and pages because I couldn’t remember anything of what I read the first time through. Today, I don’t enjoy reading books, and it takes me a long time when i do. Immediately, I think that it is very bad that I don’t read books, and that I should. However, is it actually bad. Is reading long, drawn-out books really important in such a fast-paced world based on efficiency and getting things done? I could probably store more information in my mind by reading facts and short articles on the internet than by reading full books. In my opinion, books don’t really fit in well in today’s world, unless as a hobby. Google and the internet tell us only what we need to know, and maybe, that’s the way it should be. It may seem as if Google is making us stupider, when in reality, it is only making us more efficient. Kind of creepy, but I think it’s true.