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Impact of the Internet on Thinking by Alan Greenblatt - Essay Example

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The question that guides this report is stated in the subtitle: ‘Is the Web changing the way we think?’ The rapidly growing dominance of the Internet in our lives has given rise to speculation that it alters its users’ capacity for reflection and deep thinking. …
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Impact of the Internet on Thinking by Alan Greenblatt
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Download file to see previous pages This paper illustrates that researchers have studied and expressed views on social, psychological, intellectual and physiological perspectives that are summarised and quoted in this report. Greenblatt begins his survey giving examples of instances of the impact of Internet use as a pervasive and addictive influence on people’s lives. Although the compulsive use of electronic media is quite unlike an addiction to chemical substances, China and South Korea already recognize it as a public health concern. Greenblatt quotes Nicholas Carr as expressing concern that the Internet can have ‘bad effects on our brains’. Jonah Lehrer argues that such ‘concerns are overstated.’ Research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found the majority of technology experts disagreeing with Carr, who held varied opinions on the merits of the Internet. One interesting finding was that some believed that it helped create a “hive brain” enabling ‘people to share thoughts and come to collective solutions to complex problems’. Robert Thompson is concerned that the ‘flood of information’ leaves people no ‘time for contemplation’ and ‘deeper reflection’. Paul Saffo says that video games ‘stimulates and strengthens parts of the brain’, but worries that such technology ‘causes ... people to... concentrate on the immediate at the expense of the long-term’... Elias Aboujaoude cites an increase in attention deficit disorder, though this may not be directly related to Internet use. However, he is certain that ‘those who spend a lot of time online have shorter attention spans’. The conclusion to this section is that with increasing availability of electronic media, the responsibility is on the individual to choose wisely as to how much time to spend on the Internet. Greenblatt points to historical resistance to new inventions leading to improved communication from the time of Socrates. The 15th-century invention of printing, and more recently the telegraph, the telephone and the postal service, all raised concerns, but the world has embraced and accommodated to such changes. Greenblatt explores the current situation and says that the Internet has ‘not finished evolving yet’, and forecasts that in the future people would learn to ‘disconnect’ from the Web. He concludes by quoting Aboujaoude as pessimistic about our capacity to understand the effects of the Internet ‘on our brains’, while Levy postulates two possible scenarios for the future. Either ‘we slow down and better modulate all this’ or ‘we adapt to these changes’ adding that we may not be ‘at the limit’ yet. The three basic questions that intellectuals and social critics have posed are: 1) Is the Internet making us smarter or stupid? 2) Is it addictive? 3) Does it affect our attention span? These questions are dealt with above. 1) Carr (for) vs. Lehrer (against); 2) Aboujaoude (for) vs. Rainie (Pew Internet & American Life Project) (against); 3) Gentile (for) vs. O’Reilly (against). ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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