The Internet will make you smarter, say experts

LOS ANGELES Fri Feb 19, 2010 4:05pm EST

People use computers at an internet cafe in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, November 13, 2009. REUSTERS/Stringer

People use computers at an internet cafe in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, November 13, 2009. REUSTERS/Stringer

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An online survey of 895 Web users and experts found more than three-quarters believe the Internet will make people smarter in the next 10 years, according to results released on Friday.

Most of the respondents also said the Internet would improve reading and writing by 2020, according to the study, conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University in North Carolina and the Pew Internet and American Life project.

"Three out of four experts said our use of the Internet enhances and augments human intelligence, and two-thirds said use of the Internet has improved reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge," said study co-author Janna Anderson, director of the Imagining the Internet Center.

But 21 percent said the Internet would have the opposite effect and could even lower the IQs of some who use it a lot.

"There are still many people ... who are critics of the impact of Google, Wikipedia and other online tools," she said.

The Web-based survey gathered opinions from scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers, along with Internet users screened by the authors. Of the 895 people surveyed, 371 were considered "experts."

It was prompted in part by an August 2008 cover story in the Atlantic Monthly by technology writer Nicholas Carr headlined: "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

Carr suggested in the article that heavy use of the Web was chipping away at users' capacity for concentration and deep thinking. Carr, who participated in the survey, told the authors he still agreed with the piece.

"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," Carr said in a release accompanying the study. "The price of zipping among lots of bits of information is a loss of depth in our thinking."

But Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said, "People are already using Google as an adjunct to their own memory.

"For example, I have a hunch about something, need facts to support and Google comes through for me," he said in the release.

The survey also found that 42 percent of experts believed that anonymous online activity would be "sharply curtailed" by 2020, thanks to tighter security and identification systems, while 55 percent thought it would still be relatively easy to browse the Internet anonymously in 10 years.

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Peter Cooney)

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Comments (10)
Mediaman wrote:
Really? I think it’s the opposite case; that the ability to apply greater knowledge and infomation “datasets” to an idea, a problem, a Solution can only lead to a better outcome.

Feb 19, 2010 5:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Markenrode wrote:
I think that whether the internet makes you smarter or not depends, like it does with other tools, on the way it’s used. I for one was never much of a news reader until the web appeared but now,like many people I imagine, I read news online on a regular basis. “Zipping among lots of bits of information” isn’t the only use to be made of search engines like Google; search sites allow us to mine vast stores of data in the quest for relevant information.
It’s possible I think that some uses of the Internet may dumb people down, such as online gaming for instance, when it is done to the exclusion of other activities like reading. This just goes to show, however, that the vast potential of the Internet – to communicate easily with more people than we ever could before, and to have more information at our fingertips than before – can be wasted if people so desire.

Feb 19, 2010 6:39pm EST  --  Report as abuse
hdp wrote:
I fill it, i fill it in my bones, I shure am smarter

Feb 20, 2010 11:31am EST  --  Report as abuse
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