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A decade later, I picked up on the idea and founded the Reality Club, which in 1997 went online, rebranded as Edge. The ideas presented on Edge are speculative; they represent the frontiers in such areas as evolutionary biology, genetics, computer science, neurophysiology, psychology, and physics. Emerging out of these contributions is a new natural philosophy, new ways of understanding physical systems, new ways of thinking that call into question many of our basic assumptions. For each of the anniversary editions of Edge, I have used the interrogative myself and asked contributors for their responses to a question that comes to me, or to one of my correspondents, in the middle of the night. It’s not easy coming up with a question. As Byars used to say: “I can answer the question, but am I bright enough to ask it?” I’m looking for questions that inspire answers we can’t possibly predict. My goal is to provoke people into thinking thoughts they normally might not have. The 2010 Edge Question This year’s question is “How is the Internet changing the way you think?” (Not “How is the Internet changing the way we think?

A new invention has emerged, a code for the collective consciousness that requires a new way of thinking. The collective externalized mind is the mind we all share. The Internet is the infinite oscillation of our collective consciouness interacting with itself. It’s not about computers. It’s not about what it means to be human—in fact, it challenges, renders trite, our cherished assumptions on that score. It’s about thinking. Here, more than 150 Edge contributors—scientists, artists, creative thinkers—explore what it means to think in the new age of the Internet.
Introduction: The Dawn of Entanglement W. Daniel Hillis Physicist, computer scientist; chairman, Applied Minds, Inc.; author, The Pattern on the Stone nineteenth-century curmudgeon attempting to dampen their enthusiasm:
By the Internet, I mean the global network of interconnected computers that enables, among other things, the Web.Today, most people recognize that they are using the Internet only when they are interacting with a computer screen. They are less likely to appreciate that they are using the Internet while talking on the telephone, watching television, or flying on an airplane. Some air travelers may have recently gotten a glimpse of the truth, for example, upon learning that their flights were grounded due to a router failure in Salt Lake City, but for most of them this was just another inscrutable annoyance. Most people long ago gave up trying to understand how technical systems work. This is a part of how the Internet is changing the way we think.If the theme of the Enlightenment was independence, ours is interdependence. We are now all connected, humans and machines. Welcome to the dawn of the Entanglement
The Bookless Library Nicholas Carr :Author, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains .

As the school year began last September, Cushing Academy, an elite Massachusetts prep school that has been around since Civil War days, announced that it was emptying its library of books. In place of the thousands of volumes that had once crowded the building’s shelves, the school was installing, it said, “state-of-the-art computers with high-definition screens for research and reading,” as well as “monitors that provide students with real-time interactive data and news feeds from around the world.” Cushing’s bookless library would become, boasted headmaster James Tracy, What makes it easy for an educational institution like Cushing to jettison its books is the assumption that the words in books are the same whether they’re printed on paper or formed of pixels on a screen “it is utterly immaterial to me whether they’re doing so by way of a Kindle or by way of a paperback.” The medium, in other words, doesn’t matter. But Tracy is wrong. The medium does matter. It matters greatly. The experience of reading words on a networked computer, whether it’s a PC, an iPhone, or a Kindle, is very different from the experience of reading those same words in a book. As a technology, a book focuses our attention, isolates us from the myriad distractions that fill our everyday lives. A networked computer does precisely the opposite. It is designed to scatter our attention. It doesn’t shield us from environmental distractions; it adds to them. The words on a computer screen exist in a welter of contending stimuli.
My own reading and thinking habits have shifted dramatically since I first logged on to the Web fifteen years ago or so. I now do the bulk of my reading and researching online. And my brain has changed as a result. Even as I’ve become more adept at navigating the rapids of the Net, I have experienced a steady decay in my ability to sustain my attention. As I explained in the Atlantic in 2008, “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.”* Knowing that the depth of our thought is tied directly to the intensity of our attentiveness, it’s hard not to conclude that as we adapt to the intellectual environment of the Net our thinking becomes shallower.
There are as many human brains as there are human beings. I expect, therefore, that reactions to the Net’s influence, and hence to this year’s Edge question, will span many points of view. Some people will find in the busy interactivity of the networked screen an intellectual environment ideally suited to their mental proclivities. Others will see a catastrophic erosion in the ability of human beings to engage in calmer, more meditative modes of thought. A great many likely will be somewhere between the extremes, thankful for the Net’s riches but worried about its long-term effects on the depth of individual intellect and collective culture. My own experience leads me to believe that what we stand to lose will be at least as great as what we stand to gain. I feel sorry for the kids at Cushing Academy.
The Invisible College Clay Shirky : Social and technology network topology researcher; adjunct professor, New York University Graduate School of Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP); author, Cognitive Surplus .
It is our misfortune to live through the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race—a misfortune because surplus is always more dangerous than scarcity. Scarcity means that valuable things become more valuable, a conceptually easy change to integrate. Surplus means that previously valuable things stop being valuable, which freaks people out. The mere fact of being able to publish to a global audience is the new literacy—formerly valuable, now so widely available that you can’t make any money with the basic capability anymore. This shock of inclusion, where professional media give way to participation by 2 billion amateurs (a threshold we will cross this year), means that the average quality of public thought has collapsed; when anyone can say anything anytime, how could it not? If the only consequence of this influx of amateurs is the destruction of existing models for producing high-quality material, we would be at the beginning of another Dark Ages.
To return to the press analogy, printing was a necessary but not sufficient input to the scientific revolution. The Invisible College, the group of natural philosophers who drove the original revolution in chemistry in the mid-1600s, were strongly critical of the alchemists, their intellectual forebears, who for centuries had made only fitful progress. By contrast, the Invisible College put chemistry on a sound scientific footing in a matter of a couple of decades, one of the most important intellectual transitions in the history of science. In the 1600s, though, a chemist and an alchemist used the same tools and had access to the same background. What did the Invisible College have that the alchemists didn’t? They had a culture of sharing. The problem with the alchemists wasn’t that they failed to turn lead into gold; the problem was that they failed uninformatively. Alchemists were obscurantists, recording their work by hand and rarely showing it to anyone but disciples. In contrast, members of the Invisible College shared their work, describing and disputing their methods and conclusions so that they all might benefit from both successes and failures and build on one another’s work.
As we know from open-source efforts such as Linux, collaboration between loosely joined parties can work at scales and over time frames previously unimagined. As we know from NASA clickworkers, groups of amateurs can sometimes replace single experts. As we know from, patient involvement accelerates medical research. And so on. The Internet’s primary effect on how we think will reveal itself only when it affects the cultural milieu of thought, not just the behavior of individual users.
be seen as the Invisible High School, with a modicum of educational material in an ocean of narcissism and social obsessions. We could, however, also use it as an Invisible College, the communicative backbone of real intellectual and civic change. To do this will require more than technology. It will require us to adopt norms of open sharing and participation, fitted to a world in which publishing has become the new literacy.
Net Gain : Richard Dawkins : Evolutionary biologist; emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, Oxford; author, The Greatest Show on Earth 
it is the pearls of hardware and software that inspire me: the Internet itself and the World Wide Web, succinctly defined by Wikipedia as “a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet.” The Web is a work of genius, one of the highest achievements of the human species, whose most remarkable quality is that it was constructed not by one individual genius such as Tim Berners-Lee or Steve Wozniak or Alan Kay, nor by a top-down company such as Sony or IBM, but by an anarchistic confederation of largely anonymous units located (irrelevantly) all over the world.
I calibrate Wikipedia by looking up the few things I really do know about (and may indeed have written the entry for in traditional encyclopedias)—say, evolution or natural selection. I am so impressed by these calibratory forays that I go with some confidence to entries where I lack firsthand knowledge (which was why I felt able to quote Wikipedia’s definition of the Web, above). No doubt mistakes creep in or are even maliciously inserted, but the half-life of a mistake, before the natural correction mechanism kills it, is encouragingly short.
But the speed and ubiquity of the Internet actually help us to be on our critical guard. If a report on one site sounds implausible (or too plausible to be true), you can quickly check it on several more.Perhaps the main downside of the Internet is that surfing can be addictive and a prodigious time waster, encouraging a habit of butterflying from topic to topic rather than attending to one thing at a time.
The high-resolution color rendering of virtual reality will improve to the point where the distinction from the real world becomes unnervingly hard to notice. Large-scale communal games such as Second Life will become disconcertingly addictive to many ordinary people who understand little of what goes on in the engine room. And let’s not be snobbish about that.Theocratic or otherwise malign regimes, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia today, may find it increasingly hard to bamboozle their citizens with their evil nonsense.We can at least hope that the faster, more ubiquitous, and above all cheaper Internet of the future may hasten the long-awaited downfall of ayatollahs, mullahs, popes, televangelists, and all who wield power through the control (whether cynical or sincere) of gullible minds. Perhaps Tim Berners-Lee will one day earn the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Waking Dream Kevin Kelly Editor-at-large, Wired; author, What Technology Wants
We already know that our use of technology changes how our brains work. Reading and writing are cognitive tools that change the way in which the brain processes information. When psychologists use neuroimaging technology such as MRI to compare the brains of literates and illiterates working on a task, they find many differences—and not just when the subjects are reading. Researcher Alexandre Castro-Caldas discovered that the brain’s interhemispheric processing was different for those who could read and those who could not. A key part of the corpus callosum was thicker in literates, and “the occipital lobe processed information more slowly in [individuals who] learned to read as adults compared to those [who] learned at the usual age.”* Psychologists Feggy Ostrosky-Solís, Miguel Arellano García, and Martha Peréz subjected literates and illiterates to a battery of cognitidve tests while measuring their brain waves and concluded that “the acquisition of reading and writing skills has changed the brain organization of cognitive activity in general . . . not only in language but also in visual perception, logical reasoning, remembering strategies, and formal operational thinkin But my knowledge is now more fragile. For every accepted piece of knowledge I find, there is, within easy reach, someone who challenges the fact. Every fact has its antifact. The Internet’s extreme hyperlinking highlights those antifacts as brightly as the facts. Some antifacts are silly, some are borderline, and some are valid.
Uncertainty is a kind of liquidity. I think my thinking has become more liquid. It is less fixed, like text in a book, and more fluid, like, say, text in Wikipedia. My opinions shift more. My interests rise and fall more quickly. I am less interested in Truth with a capital T and more interested in truths, plural. The trancelike state we fall into while following the undirected path of links may be a terrible waste of time—or, like dreams, it might be a productive waste of time. This waking dream we call the Internet also blurs the difference between my serious thoughts and my playful thoughts
I believe that the conflation of play and work, of thinking hard and thinking playfully, is one the greatest things the Internet has done. In fact, the propensity of the Internet to diminish our attention is overrated. I do find that smaller and smaller bits of information can command the full attention of my overeducated mind. And it is not just me; everyone reports succumbing to the lure of fast, tiny interruptions of information. In response to this incessant barrage of bits, the culture of the Internet has been busy unbundling larger works into minor snippets for sale. Music albums are chopped up and sold as songs; movies become trailers, or even smaller video snips. (I find that many trailers are better than their movie.) Newspapers become Twitter posts. Scientific papers are served up in snippets on Google. I happily swim in this rising ocean of fragments.
go looking, searching, asking, questioning, reacting to data, leaping in, constructing notes, bookmarks, a trail, a start of making something mine. I don’t wait. Don’t have to wait. I act on ideas first now, instead of thinking on them. For some folks, this is the worst of the Net—the loss of contemplation. Others feel that all this frothy activity is simply stupid busywork, spinning of wheels, illusory action.
To Dream the Waking Dream in New Ways Richard Saul Wurman: Architect, cartographer; founder, TED Conference; author, 33: Understanding Change and the Change in Understanding.
Frank Gehry dreams in scrawls and crushed paper, and they transform magically into reality. Each modality changes even what you can even think of. The Internet is just one big step along the way to flying through understanding and the invention of patterns. It’s a good one.

Tweet Me Nice Ian Gold and Joel Gold Ian Gold: Neuroscientist; Canada Research Chair in Philosophy and Psychiatry, McGill University Joel Gold: Psychiatrist; clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine
It’s hard to doubt that more friends are a good thing, friendship being among life’s greatest boons. As Aristotle put it, “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.” But of course friends are only as good as they are genuine, and it is hard to know what to think about Facebook friends. With a larger social group, there are more opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, but there are also novel threats.
The Internet has turned the human village into a megalopolis and has thus inaugurated what might be the biggest sea change in human evolution since the primeval campfires.In creating much larger social groups for ourselves, ranging from true friends to near strangers, could we be laying the ground for a pathogenic virtual city in which psychosis will be on the rise?
Whatever the effects of the Internet on our inner lives, it seems clear that in changing the structure of our outer lives—the lives intertwined with those of others—the Internet is likely to be a more potent shaper of our minds than we have begun to imagine.

The Dazed State : Richard Foreman Playwright and director; founder, the Ontological-Hysteric Theater
Internet. For me, to think is to withdraw from gathered information into a blankness, within which something arises, pops out, is born. Of course it will be maintained that what pops out may have its roots—may be conditioned—by many factors in my experiential past. Nevertheless, whereas the Internet swamps us in “connectedness” and “facts,” it is only in the withdrawal from those that I claim a space for thinking.

Power Corrupts Daniel C. Dennett Philosopher; University Professor, codirector, Center for Cognitive Studies, Tufts University; Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
As Lord Acton famously said (I know—I just did a search to make sure I remembered it correctly—he said it in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887): “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We are all today in possession of nearly absolute power in several—but not all—dimensions of thinking, and since this hugely distorts the balance between what is hard and what is easy, it may indeed corrupt us all in ways we cannot prevent.
The Rediscovery of Fire Chris Anderson Curator, TED Conferences, TED Talks
Amid the apocalyptic wailing over the Internet-inflicted demise of print, one countertrend deserves a hearing. The Web has allowed the reinvention of the spoken word. Thanks to an enormous expansion of low-cost bandwidth, the cost of online video distribution has fallen almost to zero. As a result, recorded talks and lectures are spreading across the Web like wildfire. They are tapping into something primal and powerful.

The Rise of Social Media Is Really a Reprise June Cohen Director of media, TED Conference; TED Talk 
But lately I’ve been thinking more about the old—about those aspects of human character and cognition that remain unchanged by time and technology. Over the past two decades, I’ve watched as the Internet changed the way we think and changed the way we live. But it hasn’t changed us fundamentally. In fact, it may be returning us to the intensely social animals we evolved to be.
When you take the long view—when you look at the Internet on an evolutionary timeline—everything we consider “old media” is actually very new. Books and newspapers became common only in the last two hundred years, radio and film in the last hundred, TV in the last fifty. If all of human history were compressed into a single twenty-four-hour day, media as we now know them emerged in the last two minutes before midnight. Before that, for the vast majority of human history, all media were social media. Media were what happened between people. Whether you think of the proverbial campfire, around which group rituals were performed and mythologies passed on, or of simple everyday interactions (teaching, gossiping, making music, making each other laugh), media were participatory. Media were social.
So what we’re seeing today isn’t new. It’s neither the unprecedented flowering of human potential nor the death of intelligent discourse but, rather, the correction of a historical anomaly. There was a brief period of time in the twentieth century when “media” were understood as things professionals created for others to passively consume. Collectively, we have rejected this idea. When we were handed decentralized media tools of unprecedented power, we built a digital world strikingly similar to the tribal societies and oral cultures we evolved with.

The Greatest Detractor to Serious Thinking Since Television Leo Chalupa Ophthalmologist and neurobiologist, University of California, Davis
The Internet is the greatest detractor to serious thinking since the invention of television. It can devour time in all sorts of frivolous ways, from chat rooms to video games. And what better way to interrupt one’s thought processes than by an intermittent stream of incoming e-mail messages? Moreover, the Internet has made interpersonal communication much more circumscribed than in the pre-Internet era. What you write today may come back to haunt you tomorrow. So while the Internet provides a means for rapidly communicating with colleagues globally, the sophisticated user will rarely reveal true thoughts and feelings in such messages. Serious thinking requires honest and open communication, and that is simply untenable on the Internet by those who value their professional reputation.Read more at location 899
The one area in which the Internet could be considered an aid to thinking is the rapid procurement of new information.Read more at location 902
My advice is that if you want to do some serious thinking, then you’d better disconnect theRead more at location 906
Internet, phone, and television set and tryRead more at location 907
spending twenty-four hours in absolute solitude.Read more at location 907
jumped from a barn haymow, resulting in a sprainedRead more at location 918
Knowledge Without, Focus Within, People Everywhere David Dalrymple Eighteen-year-old PhD student; researcher, MIT’s Mind Machine ProjectRead more at location 992
How well anRead more at location 1007
employee can focus might now be more important than how knowledgeable he is. Knowledge was once an internal property, and focus on the task at hand could be imposed externally; with the Internet, knowledge can be supplied externally but focus must be achieved internally.Read more at location 1007
A Level Playing Field Martin Rees President, the Royal Society; professor of cosmology and astrophysics;Read more at location 1024
The Internet enables far wider participation in front-line science; it levels the playing field between researchers in major centers and those in relative isolation, hitherto handicapped by inefficient communication. It has transformed the way science is communicated and debated. More fundamentally, it changes how research is done, what might be discovered, and how students learn.Read more at location 1036
propinquityRead more at location 1053
There’s no point in making the strenuous trek over to the library to find the source when you can get an expurgated electronic version on Google Books right away.Read more at location 1065
Rivaling Gutenberg John Tooby Founder of evolutionary psychology;Read more at location 1095
For the same reason that Communist governments would restrict access to Marx’s and Engels’ original writings, the Church made it a death penalty offense (to be preceded by torture) to translate the Bible into the languages people spoke and understood. The radical change in attitude toward authority, and the revaluation of minds even at the bottom of society, can be seen in William Tyndale’s defense of his plan to translate the Bible into English: “I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than the Pope himself.” (After his translation was printed, he was arrested, tied to the stake, and strangled.) Laymen, even plowboys, who now had access to Bibles (because they could both read and afford them) decided they could interpret sacred texts for themselves without the Church interposing itself as intermediary between book and reader.Read more at location 1128
prerogativesRead more at location 1138
Galileo—arguably the founder of modern science—was threatened with torture and placed under house arrest not for his scientific beliefs but for his deeper heresies about what validates knowledge. He argued that along with Scripture, which could be misinterpreted, God had written another book, the book of nature—written in mathematics but open for all to see. Claims about the book of nature could be investigated using experiments, logic, and mathematics—a radical proposal that left no role for authority in the evaluation of (nonscriptural) truth.Read more at location 1147
The Shoulders of Giants William Calvin Neurophysiologist;Read more at location 1176
physiologist,Read more at location 1183
Without such intellectual constructs, there is, William James said a century ago, only “one great blooming, buzzing confusion.Read more at location 1190
Brain Candy and Bad Mathematics Mark Pagel Professor of evolutionary biology,Read more at location 1236
But the Internet does takes advantage of our appetites, and this changes our thoughts, if not the way we think. Our brains have appetites for thinking, learning, feeling, hearing, and seeing. They like to be used. It is why we do crossword puzzles and brainteasers, read books and visit art galleries, watch films, and play or listen to music.Read more at location 1243
So the Internet is brain candy to me and, I suspect, to most of us—it slakes our appetite to keep our brain occupied. That moment when a search engine pops up its 1,278,000 search results to my query is a moment of pure injection of glucose into my brain. It loves it. That’s why so many of us keep going back for more. SomeRead more at location 1249
think that’s why the Internet is going to make us lazy, less literate, and less numerate, that we will forget what lovely things books are, and so on.Read more at location 1251
troglodytesRead more at location 1253
neurosesRead more at location 1256
Reality gradually whittled down my grandiosity,Read more at location 1295
Will the Great Leveler Destroy Diversity of Thought? Frank J. Tipler Professor of mathematical physics,Read more at location 1335
So the Internet causes scientific knowledge to become obsolete faster than was the case with the older print media. A scientist trained in the print media tradition is aware that there is knowledge stored in the print journals, but I wonder if the new generation of scientists, who grew up with the Internet, is aware of this. Print journals were forever. They may have merely gathered dust for decades, but they could still be read by later generations. I can no longer read my own articles stored on the floppy disks of the 1980s, because computer technology has changed too much. Will information stored on the Internet become unreadable to later generations because of data storage changes—and will the knowledge thus be lost?Read more at location 1344
The Human Texture of Information Jon Kleinberg Professor of computer science,Read more at location 1413
The Web hasn’t always looked this way. When I first used an Internet search engine in the early 1990s, I imagined myself dipping into a vast, universal library—a museum vault filled with accumulated knowledge. The fact that I shared this museum vault with other visitors was something I knew but could not directly perceive; we had the tools to engage with the information but not with one another, and so we all passed invisibly by one another. When I go online today, all those rooms and hallways are teeming and I can see it. What strikes me is the human texture of the information—the visible conversations, the spikes and bursts of text, the controlled graffiti of tagging and commenting. I’ve come to appreciate the way the event and the crowd live in symbiosis, each dependent on the other—the people all talking at once about the event, but the event fully comprehensible only as the sum total of the human reaction to it. The construction feels literary in its complexity— a scene described by an omniscient narrator, jumping between different points of view, except that here all these voices belong to real, living beings and there’s no master narrative coordinating them. The cacophony might make sense or it might not.Read more at location 1426
accentuatedRead more at location 1437
incontrovertiblyRead more at location 1455
Not at All Steven Pinker Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology; Harvard University; author, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human NatureRead more at location 1459
I’m skeptical of the common claim that the Internet is changing the way we think. Electronic media aren’t going to revamp the brain’s mechanisms of information processing,Read more at location 1463
neophobicRead more at location 1467
Has a generation of texters, surfers, and Twitterers evolved the enviable ability to process multiple streams of novel information in parallel? Most cognitive psychologists doubt it, and recent studies by Clifford Nass of Stanford University’s Communication Department confirm their skepticism. So-called multitaskers are like Woody Allen after he took a speed-reading course and devoured War and Peace in an evening. His summary: “It was about some Russians.Read more at location 1469
Also widely rumored are the students who cannot write a paper without instant-message abbreviations, emoticons, and dubious Web citations. But students indulge in such laziness only to the extent that their teachers let them get away with it. I have never seen a paper of this kind, and a survey of student papers by Stanford English professor Andrea Lunsford shows that they are mostly figments of the pundits’ imaginations.Read more at location 1473
The way that intellectual standards constrain intellectual products is nowhere more evident than in science. Scientists are voracious users of the Internet and other computer-based technologies that are supposedly making us stupid, such as PowerPoint, electronic publishing, and e-mail. Yet it would be ludicrous to suggest that scientists think differently than they did a decade ago or that the progress of science has slowed.Read more at location 1476
This Is Your Brain on Internet Terrence Sejnowski Computational neuroscientist,Read more at location 1489
What is the impact of spending hours each day in front of a monitor, surfing the Internet and playing games? Brains are highly adaptable, and experiences have long-term effects on its structure and function. You are aware of some of the changes and call it your memory, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. We are not aware of more subtle changes, which nonetheless can affect your perception and behavior. These changes occur at all levels of your brain, from the earliest perceptual levels to the highest cognitive levels. Priming is a dramatic example of unconscious learning, in which a brief exposure to an image or a word can affect how you respond to theRead more at location 1493
same image or word, even in degraded forms, many months later.Read more at location 1498
experiment. With conceptual priming, an object like a table can prime the response to a chair. Interestingly, priming decreases reaction times and is accompanied by a decrease in brain activity—the brain becomes faster and more efficient. Brains, especially youthful ones, have an omnivorous appetite for information, novelty, and social interaction, but it is less obvious why we are so good at unconscious learning.Read more at location 1500
omniscience?Read more at location 1515
physiognomyRead more at location 1523
Is the Internet in the tool kit of learning? No doubt. Within the endogenous limits of learning set by your genetic inheritance, exposure to the Internet can alter how you think no less than can exposure to language, literature, or mathematics. But the endogenous limits are critical.Read more at location 1539
Public Dreaming Thomas Metzinger Philosopher; director of the Theoretical Philosophy Group at the Department of Philosophy of the Johannes Gutenberg–Universität Mainz; author, The Ego TunnelRead more at location 1614
The Internet affects our sense of selfhood, and it does so on a deep functional level. Consciousness is the space of attentional agency: Conscious information is exactly that information in your brain to which you can deliberately direct your attention. As an attentional agent, you can initiate a shift in attention and, as it were, direct your inner flashlight at certain targets: a perceptual object, say, or a specific feeling. In many situations, people lose the property of attentional agency, and consequently their sense of self is weakened. Infants cannot control their visual attention; their gaze seems to wander aimlessly from one object to another, because this part of their ego is not yet consolidated. Another example ofRead more at location 1649
consciousness without attentional control is the nonlucid dream state. In other cases, too, such as severe drunkenness or senile dementia, you may lose the ability to direct your attention—and, correspondingly, feel that your “self ” is falling apart. If it is true that the experience of controlling and sustaining your focus of attention is one of the deeper layers of phenomenal selfhood, then what we are currently witnessing is not only an organized attack on the space of consciousness per se but also a mild form of depersonalization. New medial environments may therefore create a new form of waking consciousness that resembles weakly subjective states—a mixture of dreaming, dementia, intoxication, and infantilization. Now we all do this together, every day. I call it public dreaming.Read more at location 1655
The Age of (Quantum) Information? Anton Zeilinger Physicist,Read more at location 1662
Well, seriously, I find it utterly impressive how the notion of information is becoming more and more important in our society. Or, rather, the notion of what we think information is. What is information? From a pragmatic, operational point of view, one could argue that information is the truth value of a proposition.Read more at location 1672
To link is beautiful. To delink is sublime (Paul Chan).Read more at location 1724
The Degradation of Predictability—and Knowledge Nassim N. Taleb Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering, New York UniversityRead more at location 1788
author, The Black SwanRead more at location 1791
I used to think the problem of information is that it turns Homo sapiens into fools—we gain disproportionately in confidence, particularly in domains where information is wrapped in a high degree of noise (say, epidemiology, genetics, economics, etc.). So we end up thinking we know more than we do, which, in economic life, causes foolish risk taking.Read more at location 1792
The Internet, by spreading information, causes an increase in interdependence, the exacerbation of fads (bestsellers like Harry Potter and runs on banks become planetary). Such a world is more “complex,” more moody, much less predictable. So consider the explosive situation: More information (particularly thanks to the Internet) causes more confidence and illusions of knowledge while degrading predictability.Read more at location 1798
At no time in the history of humankind have we lived in so much ignorance (easily measured in terms of forecast errors) coupled with so much intellectual hubris.Read more at location 1803
It is saddening to realize that, having been born nearly four centuries after Huet, and having done most of my reading with material written after his death, I am not much more advanced in wisdom than he was. Moderns at the upper end are no wiser than their equivalent among the ancients; if anything, they are much less refined.Read more at location 1810
So I am now on an Internet diet, in order to understand the world a bit better—and make another bet on horrendous mistakes by economic policy makers. I am not entirely deprived of the Internet; this is just a severe diet with strict rationing. True, technologies are the greatest things in the world, but they have far too monstrous side effects—and ones rarely seen ahead of time. And since I have been spending time in the silence of my library with little informational pollution, I can feel harmony with my genes; I feel I am growing again.Read more at location 1813
How I Think About How I Think Lera Boroditsky Assistant professor of psychology, Stanford UniversityRead more at location 1856
Indeed, research in the last decade has shown that our brains change, grow, and adapt dramatically as we engage with the world in new ways. London taxi drivers grow larger hippocampi (a part of the brain heavily involved in navigation) as they gain knowledge maneuvering through the maze of London streets. Playing video games significantly improves people’s spatial attention and object-tracking abilities, giving a regular schmo the attentional skills of a fighter pilot. At this rate, we’ll be lucky if the list of basic drives controlled by the hypothalamus—the famous four F’s: fighting, fleeing, feeding, and how’s your father?—doesn’t soon need to be augmented with a fifth, Facebook. This, by the way, is the reason I give for not joining social networking sites. My hypothalamus has more important business to attend to, thanks!Read more at location 1865
My favorite human technologies are the ones we no longer even notice as technologies—they just seem like natural extensions of our minds. Numbers are one such example, a human-invented tool that, once learned, has incredible productive power in the mind. Writing is another. It no longer seems magical, in the literate world, to communicate a complex set of thoughts silently across vast reaches of time and space using only a cocktail napkin and some strategically applied stains. Yet being able to write things down, draw diagrams, and otherwise externalize the contents of our minds into some stable format has drastically augmented our cognitive and communicative abilities. By far the most amazing technological marvels that humans ever created (and what I spend most of my time thinking about) are the languages we speak. Now, there’s an immensely complex tool that really changed things for us humans. You think keeping up a correspondence with friends was hard before e-mail? Well, you should have tried it before language!Read more at location 1873
Importantly, the particulars of the languages we speak have shaped not only how we communicate our thoughts but also the very nature of the thoughts themselves. There are, of course, facile or insipid ways of construing the nature of human thought such that “the way you think” isn’t, and can’t, be changed by technology. For example, I could define the basic mechanisms of thought as “neurons fire, at different times, some more than others, and that is how I think.” Well, all right, that’s technically true, and the Internet is not changing that. But on any more interesting or useful construal of human thought, technology has been shaping us for as long as we’ve been making it.Read more at location 1880
More than shaping how I think, the Internet is also shaping how I think about how I think. Scholars interested in the nature of mind have long relied on technology as a source of metaphors for explaining how the mind works. First the mind was a clay tablet, then an abacus, a calculator, a telephone switchboard, a computer, a network. These days, new tools continue to provide convenient (perhaps in the 7-Eleven sense of convenient, as in nearby but ultimately unsatisfying) metaphors for explaining the mind. Consciousness, for example, is not unlike Twitter—millions of mundane messages bouncing around, all shouting over one another, with only a few rising as trending topics. Take that, Dan Dennett! Consciousness explained, in 140 characters or less!Read more at location 1886
Kayaks Versus Canoes George Dyson Science historian; author, Darwin Among the Machines In the North Pacific, there were two approaches to boatbuilding. The Aleuts and their kayak-building relatives lived on barren, treeless islands and built their vessels by piecing together skeletal frameworks from fragments of beachcombed wood. The Tlingit and their dugout-canoe-building relatives built their vessels by selecting entire trees out of the rain forest and removing wood until there was nothing left but a canoe. The Aleut and the Tlingit achieved similar results—maximum boat, minimum material—by opposite means. The flood of information unleashed by the Internet has produced a similar cultural split. We used to be kayak builders, collecting all available fragments of informationRead more at location 1912
to assemble the framework that kept us afloat. Now we have to learn to become dugout-canoe builders, discarding unnecessary information to reveal the shape of knowledge hidden within. I was a hardened kayak builder, trained to collect every available stick. I resent having to learn the new skills. But those who don’t will be left paddling logs, not canoes.Read more at location 1920
agnosticRead more at location 1928
I am prone to cannibalizing my work: Something said in a lecture will get plowed into an op-ed; the op-ed will later be absorbed into a book; snippets from the book may get spoken in another lecture. This process will occasionally leave me wondering just how and where and to what shameful extent I have plagiarized myself.Read more at location 1937
I fear that the brevity favored by screen versus page is shortening my attention span.Read more at location 1985
The mass media of the twentieth century were truly novel, because the analog-based technology turned folks from home entertainers and creators (gathering around the piano and singing and composing songs and the like) to passive consumers of a few major outlets (sitting around the telly and fighting over the remote). People are using hyperfast digital technology to return to self-creativity and entertainment. How all this is affecting young psyches is a matter for sociobehavioral and neuropsychological research to sort out.Read more at location 1991
It’s Not What You Know, It’s What You Can Find Out Marissa Mayer Vice president, Search Products and User Experience, GoogleRead more at location 2044
It’s not what you know, it’s what you can find out. The Internet has put resourcefulness and critical thinking at the forefront and relegated memorization of rote facts to mental exercise or enjoyment. Because of the abundance of information and this new emphasis on resourcefulness, the Internet creates a sense that anything is knowable or findable—as long as you can construct the right search, find the right tool, or connect to the right people. The Internet enables better decision making and a more efficient use of time.Read more at location 2047
Attention, Crap Detection, and Network Awareness Howard Rheingold Communications expert; author, Smart MobsRead more at location 2154
Digital media and networks can empower only the people who learn how to use them—and pose dangers to those who don’t know what they are doing. Yes, it’s easy to drift into distraction, fall for misinformation, allow attention to fragment rather than focus, but those mental temptations pose dangers only for the untrained mind. Learning the mental discipline to use thinking tools without losing focus is one of the prices I am glad to pay to gain what the Web has to offer. Those people who do not gain fundamental literacies of attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration, and network awareness are in danger of all the pitfalls critics point out—shallowness, credulity, distraction,Read more at location 2156
alienation, addiction.Read more at location 2161
Attention is the fundamental literacy. Every second I spend online, I make decisions about where to spend my attention. Should I devote any mind share at all to this comment or that headline?—a question I need to answer each time an attractive link catches my eye. Simply becoming aware of the fact that life online requires this kind of decision making was my first step in learning to tune a fundamental filter on what I allow into my head—a filter that is under my control only if I practice controlling it. The second level of decision making is whether I want to open a tab on my browser because I’ve decided this item will be worth my time tomorrow. The third decision: Do I bookmark this site because I’m interested in the subject and might want to reference it at some unspecified future time? Online attention taming begins with what meditators call mindfulness—the simple, self-influencing awareness of how attention wanders.Read more at location 2187
Crap detection—Hemingway’s name for what digital librarians call credibility assessment—is another essential literacy. If all schoolchildren could learn one skill before they go online for the first time, I think it should be the ability to find the answer to any question and the skills necessary to determine whether the answer is accurate or not.Read more at location 2197
how to use the Net salubriously?Read more at location 2203
Information Metabolism Esther DysonRead more at location 2207
But it does have one overwhelming feature: immediacy. (And when the immediacy is ruptured, its users gnash their teeth.) That immediacy is seductive: You can get instant answers, instant responses.Read more at location 2213
But sometimes I think much of what we get on the Internet is empty calories. It’s sugar—short videos, pokes from friends, blog posts, Twitter posts (even blogs seem long-winded now), pop-ups, visualizations . . . Sugar is so much easier to digest, so enticing—and ultimately it leaves us hungrier than before. Worse than that, over a long period many of us are genetically disposed to lose our ability to digest sugar if we consume too much of it. It makes us sick long-term, as well as giving us indigestion and hypoglycemic fits. Could that be true of information sugar as well? Will we become allergic to it even as we crave it? And what will serve as information insulin?Read more at location 2217
Outsourcing the Mind Gerd Gigerenzer Psychologist;Read more at location 2280
But the Internet can be used in an active rather than a reactive way—that is, by not letting it determine how long we can think and when we have to stop. So the question is, Does an active use of the Internet change our way of thinking? I believe so. The Internet shifts our cognitive functions from searching for information inside the mind toward searching outside the mind. But it is not the first technology to do so.Read more at location 2292
Consider the invention that changed human mental life more than anything else: writing, andRead more at location 2296
subsequently the printing press. Writing made analysis possible; it allowed us to compare texts, which is difficult in an oral tradition. Writing also made exactitude possible, as in higher-order arithmetic—without any written form, these mental skills quickly meet their limits. But writing makes long-term memory less important than it once was,Read more at location 2296
The Internet has amplified this trend of shifting knowledge from the inside to the outside and taught us new strategies for finding what we want by using search machines.Read more at location 2302
The Internet is essentially a huge storage room of information. We are in the process of outsourcing information storage and retrieval from mind to computer, just as many of us have already outsourced doing mental arithmetic to the pocket calculator.Read more at location 2306
A Prehistorian’s Perspective Timothy Taylor Archaeologist,Read more at location 2313
the Internet simply enhances my ability to think in familiar ways, letting me work longer, more often, with better focus, free from the social tyranny of the library and the uncertainty of the mails.Read more at location 2318
The Fourth Phase of Homo sapiens Scott Atran Anthropologist,Read more at location 2340
I’m aware that I’m living on the cusp of perhaps the third great tipping point in human history, and that this is an awesome and lucky thing to experience.Read more at location 2346
Transience Is Now Permanence Douglas Coupland Writer, artist, designer; author, Generation A The Internet has made me very casual, with a level of omniscience that was unthinkable a decade ago. I now wonder if God gets bored knowing the answer to everything.Read more at location 2467
pubescentRead more at location 2531
gregarious,Read more at location 2549
tantalizingRead more at location 2558
Gerontologist;Read more at location 2624
The Internet Makes Me Think in the Present Tense Douglas Rushkoff Media analyst; documentary writer;Read more at location 2719
How does the Internet change the way I think? It puts me in the present tense.Read more at location 2722
The Internet pushes us all toward the immediate. The now. Every inquiry is to be answered right away, and every fact or idea is only as fresh as the time it takes to refresh a page. And as a result, speaking for myself, the Internet makes me mean. Resentful. Short-fused. Reactionary.Read more at location 2724
Once the Internet changed from a resource at my desk into an appendage chirping from my pocket and vibrating on my thigh, however, the value of depth was replaced by that of immediacy masquerading as relevancy. This is why Google is changing itself from a search engine to a “live” search engine, why e-mail devolved to SMS and blogs devolved to tweets. It’s why schoolchildren can no longer engage in linear argument, why narrative structure collapsed into reality TV, why almost no one can engage in meaningful dialog about long-term global issues.Read more at location 2735
It’s as if the relentless demand of networks for me to be everywhere, all the time, was denying me access to the moment in which I am really living. And it is this sense of disconnection—more than distraction, multitasking, or long-distance engagement—that makes the Internet so aggravating.Read more at location 2741
The nowness of the Internet engenders impulsive, unthinking responses instead of considered ones, and a tendency to think of communications as a way to bark orders or fend off those of others. I want to satisfy the devices chirping and vibrating in my pockets, if only to make them stop. Instead of looking at each digital conversation as an opportunity for depth, I experience them as involuntary triggers of my nervous system.Read more at location 2752
Social Prosthetic Systems Stephen M. Kosslyn Psychologist, dean of social sciences, Harvard University; coauthor (with Robin S. Rosenberg), Fundamentals of Psychology in ContextRead more at location 2771
Other people can help us compensate for our mental and emotional deficiencies, much as a wooden leg can compensate for a physical deficiency. Specifically, other people can extend our intelligence and help us understand and regulate our emotions. I’ve argued that such relationships can become so close that other people essentially act as extensions of oneself, much as a wooden leg does. When another person helps us in such ways, he or she is participating in what I’ve called a “social prosthetic system.” Such systems do not need to operate face-to-face, and it’s clear to me that the Internet is expanding the range of my own social prosthetic systems.Read more at location 2774
the Internet has extended my memory, perception, and judgment. Regarding memory: Once I look up something on the Internet, I don’t need to retain all the details for future use—I know where to find that information again and can quickly and easily do so. More generally, the Internet functions as if it were my memory. This function of the Internet is particularly striking when I’m writing; I’m no longer comfortable writing if I’m not connected to the Internet. It’s become natural to check facts as I write, taking a minute or two to dip into PubMed, Wikipedia, or the like. When I write with a browser open in the background, it’s as though the browser were an extension of myself. Regarding perception: Sometimes I feel as if the Internet has granted me clairvoyance. I can see things at a distance. I’m particularly struck by the ease of using videos, allowing me to witness a particular event in the news. It’s a cliché, but the world really does feel smaller. Regarding judgment: The Internet has made me smarter in matters small and large. For example, when I’m writing a textbook, it has become second nature to check a dozen definitions of a key term, which helps me distill the essence of its meaning. But more than that, I now regularly compare my views with those of many others. If I have a “new idea,” I now quickly look to see whether somebody else has already conceived of it, or something similar—and I then compare what I think to what others have thought. This inevitably hones my own views. Moreover, I use the Internet for sanity checks, trying to gauge whether my emotional reactions to an event are reasonable by quickly comparing them with those of others.Read more at location 2781
These effects of the Internet have become even more striking since I’ve begun using a smartphone. I now regularly pull out my phone to check a fact, watch a video, read blogs. Such activities fill the spaces that used to be dead time (such as waiting for somebody to arrive for aRead more at location 2795
lunch meeting). But that’s the upside. The downside is that in those dead periods I often would let my thoughts drift and sometimes would have an unexpected insight or idea. Those opportunities are now fewer and farther between. Like anything else, constant connectivity has posed various tradeoffs; nothing is without a price. But in this case—on balance—it’s a small price. I’m a better thinker now than I was before I integrated the Internet into my mental and emotional processing.Read more at location 2797
Evolving a Global Brain W. Tecumseh Fitch Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna; author, The Evolution of LanguageRead more at location 2802
intractable.Read more at location 2869
wetwareRead more at location 2873
ricketyRead more at location 2882
zealotsRead more at location 2885
an unruly cyberworldRead more at location 2939
Not only have I been transformed into an Internet pessimist, but recently the Net has begun to feel downright spooky. Not to be anthropomorphic, but doesn’t the Net seem to have a mind of its own?Read more at location 2956
By Changing My Behavior Seirian Sumner Research fellow in evolutionary biology,Read more at location 2982
I was rather stumped by the Edge question,Read more at location 2984
We show inordinate levels of altruism on the Internet,Read more at location 3015
The Internet may not necessarily change the way we think, but it certainly shapes and directs our thoughts by changing our behavior. Offline, we may be secretive, miserly, private, suspicious, and self-centered. Online, we become philanthropic, generous, approachable, friendly, and dangerously unwary of strangers.Read more at location 3022
Unless you give a little of yourself, you get restricted access to resources. The reason for our personality change is that the Internet is a portal to lazy escapism: At the twitch of the mouse, we enter a world in which the consequences of our actions don’t seem real. The degree to which our online and offline personas differ will, of course, vary from one person to another. At the most extreme, online life is one of carefree fantasy: live vicariously through your flawless avatar in the fantastical world of Second Life. What better way to escape the tedium and struggles of reality that confront our offline selves?Read more at location 3025
The Internet is the third great breakthrough in human communication, and our behavioral plasticity is a necessary means for exploiting it.Read more at location 3033
To conclude: The Internet changes my behavior every time I log on and in so doing influences how I think. My daring, cheeky, spontaneous, and interactive online persona encourages me to think further outside my offline box. I think in tandem with the Internet, using its knowledge to inspire and challenge my thoughts.Read more at location 3037
There Is No New Self Nicholas A. Christakis Physician and social scientist, Harvard University; coauthor (with James H. Fowler), Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our LivesRead more at location 3041
rouRead more at location 3179
reifiesRead more at location 3215
What Do We Think About? Who Gets to Do the Thinking? Evgeny MorozovRead more at location 3397
Our ability to look back and engage with the past is one unfortunate victim of such reification of thinking. Thus, amid all the recent hysteria about the demise of forgetting in the era of social networking, it’s the demise of reminiscence that I find deeply troublesome. The digital age presents us with yet another paradox: Whereas we have nearly infinite space to store our memories, as well as all the multipurpose gadgets to augment them with GPS coordinates and 360-degree panoramas, we have fewer opportunities to look back on and engage with those memories.Read more at location 3415
tetheredRead more at location 3530
Harmful One-Liners, an Ocean of Facts, and Rewired Minds Haim HarariRead more at location 3536
It is entirely possible that the Internet is changing our way of thinking in more ways than I am willing to admit, but there are three clear changes that are palpable. The first is the increasing brevity of messages. Between Twittering, chatting, and sending abbreviated BlackBerry e-mails, the “old” sixty-second sound bite of TV newscasts is now converted into one-liners attempting to describe ideas, principles, events, complex situations, and moral positions. Even when the message itself is somewhat longer, the fact that we are exposed to more messages than ever before means that the attention dose allocated to each item is tiny. The result, for the general public, is a flourishing of extremist views on everything. Not just in politics, where only the ideas of the lunatic far left and far right can be stated in one sentence, but also in matters of science. It is easy to state in one sentence nonsense such as “The theory of evolution is wrong,” “Global warming is a myth,” “Vaccinations cause autism,” and “God”—mine, yours, or hers—“has all the answers.” It requires long essays to explain and discuss the ifs and buts of real science and of real life.Read more at location 3540
I find that this trend makes me a fanatic antiextremist. I am boiling mad whenever I see or read such telegraphic (to use an ancient terminology) elaborations of ideas and facts, knowing that they are wrong and misleading yet find their way into so many hearts and minds. Even worse, people who are still interested in a deeper analysis and a balanced view of topics—whether scientific, social, political, or other—are considered leftovers from an earlier generation and labeled as extremists of the opposite color byRead more at location 3550
the fanatics of one corner or another. The second change is the diminishing role of factual knowledge in the thinking process. The thought patterns of different people on different subjects require varying degrees of knowing facts, being able to correlate them, creating new ideas, distinguishing between important and secondary matters, analyzing processes, knowing when to prefer pure logic and when to let common sense dominate, and numerous other components of a complex mental exercise. The Internet allows us to know fewer facts, since we can be sure they are always literally at our fingertips, thus reducing their importance as a component of the thought process. This is similar to, but much more profound than, the reduced role of computation and simple arithmetic with the introduction of calculators. But we should not forget that often in the scientific discovery process the greatest challenges are to ask the right question rather than answer a well-posed question and to correlate facts that no one thought of connecting. The existence of many available facts somewhere in the infinite ocean of the Internet is no help in such an endeavor. I find that my scientific thinking is changed very little by the availability of all of these facts, though my grasp of social, economic, and political issues is enriched by having many more facts at my disposal. An important warning is necessary here: A crucial enhanced element of the thought process, demanded by the flood of available facts, must be the ability to evaluate the credibility of facts and quasi-facts. Both are abundant on the Web, and telling them apart is not as easy as it may seem. The third change is in the entire process of teaching and learning. Here it is clear that the change must be profound and multifaceted, but it is equally clear that because of the ultraconservative nature of the educational system, change has not yet happened on a large scale. The Internet brings to us art treasures, the ability to simulate complex experiments, mechanisms of learning by trial and error, less need to memorize facts and numbers, explanations and lessons from the greatestRead more at location 3554
An interesting follow-up is the question of whether the minds and brains of children growing up in an Internet-inspired educational system will be physically “wired” differently from those of earlier generations. I tend to speculate in the affirmative, but this issue may be settled only by responses to the Edge question of 2040.Read more at location 3575
In effect, my argument is that the Internet may influence thinking indirectly through its unrelenting stranglehold on our attention and the resultant death (or at least denudation) of nonvirtual experience.Read more at location 3648
The Collective Nature of Human Intelligence Matt Ridley Science writer;Read more at location 3656
The Internet is the ultimate mating ground for ideas, the supreme lekking arena for memes. Cultural and intellectual evolution depends on sex just as much as biological evolution does; otherwise they remain merely vertical transmission systems. Sex allows creatures to draw upon mutations that happen anywhere in their species. The Internet allows people to draw upon ideas that occur to anybody in the world. Radio and printing did this, too, and so did writing and before that language, but the Internet has made it fast and furious.Read more at location 3659
Six Ways the Internet May Save Civilization David Eagleman Neuroscientist; novelist;Read more at location 3677
A Gift to Conspirators and Terrorists Everywhere Marcel Kinsbourne Neurologist and cognitive neuroscientist, the New School; author, Children’s Learning and Attention ProblemsRead more at location 3750
The Internet has supplied me with an answer to a question that has exercised me interminably: When I reach Heaven (surely!), how can I possibly spend infinite time without incurring infinite boredom? Well, as long as they provide an Internet connection, I now see that I can.Read more at location 3753
insensateRead more at location 3785
My Internet Mind Thomas A. BassRead more at location 3863
Professor of English,Read more at location 3865
What do I do with the Internet? I send out manuscripts and mail, buy things, listen to music, read books, hunt up information and news. The Internet is a great stew of opinion and facts. It is an encyclopedic marvel that has transformed my world. It has also undoubtedly transformed the way I think.Read more at location 3866
But if we humans are the sex organs of our technologies, reproducing them, expanding their domains and functionality—as Marshall McLuhan saidRead more at location 3869
Incomprehensible Visitors from the Technological Future Alison Gopnik Psychologist, University of California, Berkeley; author, The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of LifeRead more at location 3949
It’s because human change takes place across generations rather than within a single life. This is built into the very nature of the developing mind and brain. All the authors of these essays have learned how to use the Web with brains that were fully developed long before we sent our first e-mail. All of us learned to read with the open and flexible brains we had when we were children. As a result, no one living now will experience the digital world in the spontaneous and unself-conscious way that the children of 2010 will experience it, or in the spontaneous and unself-conscious way we experience print.Read more at location 3967
“Go Native” Howard Gardner Psychologist, Harvard University; author, Changing MindsRead more at location 4001
This multiplicity of connections, networks, avatars, messages, may not bother them but certainly makes for identities that are more fluid and less stable. Times for reflection, introspection, solitude, are scarce. Long-standing views of privacy and ownership/authorship are being rapidly undermined. Probably most dramatically, what it has meant for millennia to belong to a community is being totally renegotiated as a result of instant, 24/7 access to anyone connected to the Internet. How this will affect intimacy, imagination, democracy, social action, citizenship, and other staples of humankind is up for grabs.Read more at location 4018
archetypalRead more at location 4127
My Judgment Enhancer Geoffrey Miller Evolutionary psychologist,Read more at location 4174
Online peer ratings empower us to be evidence-based about almost all our decisions. For most goods and services—and, indeed, most domains of life—they offer a kind of informal meta-analysis, an aggregation of data across all the analyses already performed by like-minded consumers. Judgment becomes socially distributed and statistical rather than individual and anecdotal.Read more at location 4193
To use peer ratings effectively, we have to let go of our intellectual and aesthetic pretensions. We have to recognize that some of our consumer judgments served mainly as conspicuous displays of our intelligence, openness, taste, or wealth and are not really the most effective way to choose the best option. We have to learn some humility. My best recent movie viewing experiences have all come from valuing the Metacritic ratings over my own assumptions, prejudices, and prejudgments. In the process, I’ve acquired a newfound respect for the collective wisdom of our species. This recognition that my own thinking is not so different from, or better than, everyone else’s is one of the Internet’s great moral lessons. Online peer ratings reinforce egalitarianism, mutual respect, and social capital. Against the hucksterism of marketing and lobbying, they knit humanity together into collective decision-making systems of formidable power and intelligence.Read more at location 4210
Repetition, Availability, and Truth Daniel Haun Director, the Research Group for Comparative Cognitive Anthropology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyRead more at location 4235
Let me try to give you an example of the way people think. The way you think. I have already told you three times that the Internet hasn’t changed the way you think (four and counting), and each time you read it, the statement becomes more believable to you. For more than sixty years, psychologists have been reporting the human tendency to mistake repetition for truth. This is called the illusion-of-truth effect. You believe to be true what you hear often. The same applies to whatever comes to mind first or most easily.Read more at location 4245
People, including you, believe the examples they can think of right away to be most representative and therefore indicative of the truth. This is called the availability heuristic. Let me give you a famous example. In English, whatRead more at location 4249
is the relative proportion of words that start with the letter K versus words that have the letter K in third position? The reason most people believe the former to be more common than the latter is that they can easily remember a lot of words that start with a K but few that have a K in the third position. The truth in fact is that there are three times more words with K in third than in first position. Now, if you doubt that people really believe this (maybe because you don’t), you have just proved my point. Availability creates the illusion of truth. Repetition creates the illusion of truth. I would repeat that, but you get my point.Read more at location 4251
Let’s reconsider the Internet. How do you find the truth on the Internet? You use a search engine. Search engines evidently have very complicated ways to determine which pages will be most relevant to your personal quest for the truth. But in a nutshell, a page’s relevance is determined by how many other relevant pages link to it. Repetition, not truth. Your search engine will then present a set of ranked pages to you, determining availability. Repetition determines availability, and both together create the illusion of truth. Hence, the Internet does just what you would do. It isn’t changing the structure of your thinking, because it resembles it. It isn’t changing the structure of your thinking, because it resembles it.Read more at location 4257
An engineer, a physicist, and a computer scientist go for a drive. Near the crest of a hill, the engine sputters and stops running. “It must be the carburetor,” says the engineer, opening his toolbox. “Let me see if I can find the problem.Read more at location 4303
“If we can just push it to the top of the hill, gravity will let us coast down to a garage,” says the physicist.Read more at location 4306
“Wait a second,” says the computer scientist.Read more at location 4307
“Let’s all get out of the car, shut the doors, open them again, get in, turn the key in the ignition, and see what happens.Read more at location 4308
Have Outsourced My Memory Charles Seife Professor of journalism,Read more at location 4328
The process was so gradual, so natural, that I didn’t notice it at first. In retrospect, it was happening to me long before the advent of the Internet. The earliest symptoms still mar the books in my library. Every dog-eared page represents a hole in my memory. Instead of trying to memorize a passage in the book or remember an important statistic, I took an easier path, storing the location of the desirable memory instead of the memory itself. Every dog-ear is a meta-memory, a pointer to an idea I wanted to retain but was too lazy to memorize.Read more at location 4332
My meta- memories, my pointers to ideas, started being replaced by meta-meta-memories, by pointers to pointers to data. Each day, my brain fills with these quasi-memories, with pointers, and with pointers to pointers, each one a dusty IOU sitting where a fact or idea should reside.Read more at location 4338
A Miracle and a Curse Ed RegisRead more at location 4627
The Internet is simultaneously the world’s greatest time saver and the greatest time waster in history. I’m reduced to stating the obvious with regard to time saving: The Web embodies practically the whole of human knowledge and most of it is only a mouse click away. An archive search that in the past might have taken a week, plus thousands of miles of travel, can now be done at blitz speeds in the privacy of your own home or office, et cetera.Read more at location 4633
The flip side, however, is that the Internet is also the world’s greatest time sink. This was explicitly acknowledged as a goal by the pair of twenty-something developers of one of the famous Websites or browsers or search engines, I forget which (it may have been Yahoo!), who once said, “We developed this thing so that you don’t have to waste time to start wasting time. Now you can start wasting time right away.Read more at location 4637
The modern Internet has greatly increased the availability of information, both the valuable stuff and the flotsam. Using a conceptual compass, a generalist can navigate the flotsam to gain the depth of a specialist in many areas. The compass-driven generalist need no longer be dismissed as the Mississippi River—a mile wide and a foot deep.Read more at location 4977
The Virtualization of the Universe David Gelernter Computer scientist,Read more at location 5167
The Internet is virtualizing the universe, which changes the way I act and think. Virtualization (a basic historical transition, like industrialization) means that I spend more and more of my time acting within—and thinking about the mirror reflection of—some external system or institution in the (smooth, pondlike) surface of the Internet.Read more at location 5170
In terms of how I think, I fear that the Internet is less helpful. Although I can find information faster, that information is frequently tangential. More often than I’d like to admit, I sit down to do something and then get up bleary-eyed hours later,Read more at location 5240
Bleat for Yourself Larry Sanger Cofounder of Wikipedia and CitizendiumRead more at location 5756
Is it really true that we no longer have any choice but to be intemperate in how we spend our time, in the face of the temptations and shrill demands of networked digital media? New media are not that powerful. We still retain free will, which is the ability to focus, deliberate, and act on the results of our deliberations. If we want to spend hours reading books, we still possess that freedom. Only philosophical argument could establish that information overload has deprived us of our agency; the claim, at root, is philosophical, not empirical.Read more at location 5778
But we obviously have the freedom not to participate in such networks. And we have the freedom to consume the output of such networks selectively and while holding our noses—to participate, we needn’t be true believers. So it is very hard for me to take the “Woe is us, we’re growing stupid and collectivized like sheep” narrative seriously. If you feel yourself growing ovine, bleat for yourself.Read more at location 5789
I get the sense that many writers on these issues aren’t much bothered by the unfocusing, de-liberating effects of joining the hive mind. Don Tapscott has suggested that the instant availability of information means we don’t have to memorize anything anymore—just consult Google and Wikipedia, the brains of the hive mind. Clay Shirky seems to believe that in the future we will be enculturated not by reading dusty old books but in something like online fora, plugged into the ephemera of a group mind, as it were. But surely, if we were to act as either of these college teachers recommend, we’d become a bunch of ignoramuses. Indeed, perhaps that’s what social networks are turning too many kids into, as Mark Bauerlein argues cogently in The Dumbest Generation. (For the record, I’ve started homeschooling my own little boy.)