Are We All Going Google Eyed?

Here’s fun game. Visit an ATM and play “Guess your PIN.” If you win you get some money. If you don’t you loose your card, usually after the third attempt.Other versions of the game are available for credit cards and removable car radios.

In a survey, 63% of Australian’s said that they had difficulty remembering things like PIN numbers. Personally, I can’t even remember my own home phone number these days. I’m also starting to struggle with passwords to social networks that I’ve joined during moments of midnight madness. I even ‘lost’ my new bicycle for a few days last month because I couldn’t remember the padlock code and couldn’t remember where I’d written it down either. Still, it was better than last year. I padlocked my bike somewhere but, to this day, I can’t remember where.

This might be my age but I doubt it. My lack of memory is caused by too much data. Digitalisation has made it too easy to create and distribute information, with the result that I’m drowning in a sea of endless trivia.

But there’s a much bigger problem on the horizon. The Internet might be making us stupid. For example, have you noticed how attention spans are shortening? Perhaps you are scanning newspaper articles because they appear too long? Or perhaps you’ve read bits of books twice because you weren’t properly concentrating.

The problem is that infinite choice is fragmenting our attention. Digitalisation is also fuelling an obsession with speed with the result that Information and entertainment are now only acceptable if they are delivered in snack-sized formats. Similarly, speed of information retrieval is becoming more important in some instances than accuracy.

Google is also making us somewhat stupid because the first thing we do when we need information is do what everyone does. We go to Google and we look at the first few pages of results. This is a problem because if information isn’t ranked on the first couple of pages it might as well not exist. It’s also a problem because everyone is looking for things in the same place and everyone is using the same sources to create ‘new’ information. Hence, we are becoming increasingly self-referential and our knowledge is narrowing. Don’t believe me? Well the first thing I did when I started writing this was to Google ‘Google Goggles’. Guess what I found? Something I’d already written but forgotten about. Brilliant.

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One Response to Are We All Going Google Eyed?

  1. Nic Hodges says:

    Sorry Richard, I just had to re-read your post, I wasn’t paying attention the first time.

    I think the results of Google Goggling will actually be a more evolved method of thinking. The unfortunate thing is that we (any current generation on the planet) won’t benefit from this. It may take a few generations, but the role of memory may well change once we are completely wired.

    So at the moment we’re sort of like the first fishy creatures that crawled out of the water with their useless little legs, we just need to realise that we are a midpoint between an evolutionary leap, harden up and deal with it.

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