In his book The Shallows, Nicholas Carr suggests that the internet is making us dumber. Carr finds that the vast amount of hyperlinked information available on the internet means that depth of knowledge has given way to shallowness. Casually disregarding the internet’s arguably most significant feature, Carr asserts “people who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text peppered with links”. To Carr, the internet is a distraction from proper learning.
In the other extreme of this continuum, we have Sugata Mitra, to whom the internet conjures up revolutionary new ways to acquire knowledge. Controversially for many, Mitra claims that “people are adamant learning is not just looking at a Google page. But it is. Learning is looking at Google pages. What is wrong with that?” To Mitra, the internet is learning’s best hope.
I had a discussion about this with my uncle. It’s not that we shouldn’t learn facts (know that a water pump in a car helps cool it does not make one qualified to build a water pump) but that we should embrace the ability to be able to bring up vast amount of information about a topic on a moment’s notice. Being able to qualify and curate all of this information is a tough skill to learn, but I’d rather have to learn it than be in a world without access.