2008-05-30

From know-what to know-where

One measure of people's knowledge is the amount of information that a person can come up with. In the "old" days, this information would come mainly out of your head. From experience, you can know what things are, e.g. facts, dates, etc. With a good memory, you can reproduce much learned information. Add reasoning, and you can combine your experiences to produce novel information and know how things work. Thus, people will have more knowledge if they are able to store and manipulate information. This was the game humankind played... until a decade ago. Blame it on Google.

What is the use of memorizing information when you can find it in an instant? Before you had to go to a library to search for information, so it was a big advantage to have a good memory. Now remembering and reasoning are not enough. You need to know where to find information. Certainly, this does not displace reasoning, only encyclopedic memory. The thing is that having such an accessible information repository makes Internet search abilities more useful than a good long term memory. You can forget information without a problem if you can find it again whenever you need it.

Is the Internet making us dumber? Of course not! We can be smarter. We're becoming dependent on it, that is true, but I see this as an unavoidable symbiosis. Can we say that the Global Brain already awakened?

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