As the Internet becomes more ubiquitous, a debate rages on between information experts: Is the Internet making us smarter or dumber? While it provides increased access to tons of information, it is also a distracting environment that might be reducing our ability to think critically.
Those arguing that it makes us smarter bring up the printing press. Both the printing press and the Internet have the ability to spread all kinds of information. While some of this information may be silly cat videos, the Internet has also led to things like Wikipedia, open-source software, Khan Academy and other useful tools. It’s hard to argue against the fact that the Internet can make us factually smarter.
In the opposing camp, experts believe that the endless distractions provided by the Internet reduce critical thought, imagination and productivity. The Internet creates an environment in which users are never bored, and boredom is crucial to sparking creativity. They argue that the Internet scatters our attention and makes us shallow thinkers.
Personally, I believe that the increased access to information is crucial and outweighs the distractions caused by the Internet. I think a more important thing to consider than the question of smarter or dumber is how we integrate and use the Internet as a tool. I think those arguing that it makes us dumber underestimate humans ability to adapt. Just like humans adapted and used the printing press to their advantage, I think the Internet will be a more positive than negative development for society.