There was an article published by Atlantic Magazine back in August 2008 entitled “Is Google Making us Stupid?” (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/6868/) The article, in short, ponders the side effects of the information age which allows us to find facts easily and quickly, shortening the time it takes to research. The fear is that we’re not only shortening our research time, but we’re also shortening our thoughts. The author, Nicholas Carr, shares an analogy for the way the information age has affected him:
“Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
Published on the eve of the 2008 stock market crash, the article was rather short lived, but amid the growing popularity of new media tools such as twitter, foursquare and Quora, the message is valid today more than ever.
I do think that the internet and the universal availability of information is definitely a good thing (I actually plan on giving a lecture in a few weeks about how information is now free – which is unusual from a historical perspective), but I also think it’s important to remember that not everything happens quickly. Technology can provide a more liquid exchange of ideas, but the process of thinking and learning is still the same as it’s always been.
Running along the Hudson yesterday, up to Brooklyn Bridge Park (a route that has become my weekend routine), I couldn’t help but admire the hulking New York skyline. Staring up at the massive buildings I reached a new appreciation for the dichotomy of the information age. As we conduct our business (both personally and professionally) with ever shortening messages and thoughts, we do so while operating in a world that has been inherited from a generation that knew the value of time. Building the New York skyline took time – building the culture of New York took even more time. Just because new technology allows for communication to happen more quickly doesn’t mean that everything can happen more quickly.
My outlook for the future is positive, but I do hope that amid our 140 character messages we don’t lose our appreciation for time.