Google doesn't make you dumb, say experts

Posted by Emma Woollacott

It would be pretty evil to make your customers stupid. So Google must be relieved that the latest expert survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that, in this at least, it seems to be living up to its mission statement.

Over three-quarters of the 895 experts polled by Pew agreed that Google is probably making us smarter by enabling us to make better choices.

The survey was prompted by a 2009 article in the Atlantic Monthly in which analyst Nicholas Carr argued that the ability to make web searches so easily was making it harder to concentrate.

"Google allows us to be more creative in approaching problems and more integrative in our thinking," says Paul Jones of the University of North Carolina. "We spend less time trying to recall and more time generating solutions."

But Carr says he stands by his earlier article. "I feel compelled to agree with myself," he says.

"But I would add that the Net's effect on our intellectual lives will not be measured simply by average IQ scores. What the net does is shift the emphasis of our intelligence, away from what might be called a meditative or contemplative intelligence and more toward what might be called a utilitarian intelligence. The price of zipping among lots of bits of information is a loss of depth in our thinking."

Other findings of the survey included fears that there could be major disagreements over the control of the internet, and that anonymous activity could be increasingly limited.