This is Your Brain on Drugs

Fried_egg,_sunny_side_up You remember the threats (or were those promises?) about how drugs would make you stupid? 36 years ago, we laughed at the ridiculousness of Reefer Madness. And we chortle today at the failed fried egg campaign of two decades back.

And even greater danger lurks, and it’s Google, according to Nicholas Carr’s piece in Atlantic Monthly. Credit here has to go to lawyer, writer, code monkey, and Nebraskan Richard Dooling for pointing it out in his blog. How many times a day do you access Google instead of using your brain?

If you ask me, and I know you didn’t, but this is my blog, the real danger lies in Wikipedia. Just think about how many idiots pass themselves off as savants just because they rely upon its entries?

 

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5 comments on “This is Your Brain on Drugs

  1. Rob Evans says:

    “…the real danger lies in Wikipedia. Just think about how many idiots pass themselves off as savants just because they rely upon its entries?”
    Seems a little ad hominem to me. Does it really matter where the idiot’s facts come from? Shouldn’t we really be addressing the quality of the information and the arguments being made.

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  2. Trochilus says:

    Somehow, I just do not perceive that the net effect on myself — first of using computers, and then of the internet as it emerged — has been a negative one. I started to read the Nicholas Carr piece in The Atlantic that you linked to, above, and I must honestly say that some of what he says really rings a bit false, at least for me. I will go back and read it through, but with a gimlet eye.
    Teaching myself to use computers in the late 1970s immensely facilitated my ability to write and organize an argument, or a point of view, or even (occasionally) to compose something as silly as a limerick. Now, I can only wish I had both tools while I was plugging away in school. And, in recent years, I have also noticed that I have an improved memory, or at least an ability to draw on incidents from years ago in a way that I was never able to do at earlier stages in my life.
    For me, computers and the net have actually fostered an improved knack for immersion in a topic — not just the skimming, or “staccato” quality he cites, quoting Bruce Friedman. Like anyone else, I’ll surf, but when I hit something interesting, I tend to focus and drill down.
    Now, I suppose that if I spent all, or even most of my time at a screen I might feel quite differently. I might feel trapped. By necessity, however, I also spend considerable time outdoors with my dogs tugging me around in fields and woods, or along the tow path of an old canal. And I know that my thinking process is shaped during that time as well, quite as much as when I am on the web. And, I also still read books.
    You are certainly correct that Wikipedia has its shortcomings. We have all found entries there that have been hijacked by some movement-driven morons of one type or another. You seem to be addressing the fact that there are so many out there who stake a claim to instant expertise by laying down a marker that is almost exclusively based on a Wikipedia entry. Yep. There are idiots everywhere you go.

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  3. Steve Cotton says:

    I have been mulling over the Carr article. I keep wondering who these literate people are who have fallen into a Google-induced coma. As far as I can tell, my friends seem to be immune. The readers continue to read; the non-readers continue to do — whatever it is they do.
    I recall the day we got our set of Encyclopedia Brittanica. I must have been 9 or so. I pulled volumes out of boxes, picked one book at random, and began reading. It was an article on “Ancient Greece.” I remember finding a name I did not recognize. I looked it up. Looked up another name. And another. By the time I was done, I had most of the volumes open on the living room floor.
    There were many other information expeditions like that through the years. I remember crawling out of bed one night because I did not know what happened to King Charles’s head after he was executed.
    As I wander through the internet now, it is simply a faster method of going on an information safari. I feel no less intelligent because I now can find what I need in less time.
    The only slippage is in my ability to remember nouns — especially, names. If Carr can find a way to blame that on Google, he has my support. We will all simply ignore the fact that I am no longer 9.

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  4. Esteban says:

    This fact game or knowledge based party of intelligent discourse is all bullshit. It’s all in the presentation and to whom you are presenting. Is there anything that can’t be challenged?
    We have discussion on truth but know very well it gets down to intonation, costume and whether you are in Alabama or Oregon. As the illusion unfolds we listen for the ring of truth. I’m not talking about designing rockets or getting change at the bank.
    There are certain things we do accept but as to Wikipedia, I don’t see it any different than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Now that investigative journalism is dead even if the facts are not true, what really counts is how much fun it is to listen and respond.

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  5. I, too, remember the day the Encyclopedia Britannica arrived in a zillion boxes that took all day long to unpack. Well, it seemed that way this seven-year old who was amazed at all it contained. And I still have mine, even though a few volumes lost themselves during the move to Mexico. A scary thought: I just realized that the copyright date of those volumes is 1958, a full half-century ago.

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