Oh, let me just look that up. And pass the cookies.
December 31, 2011 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Are there scholarly books, articles, etc. that address what has happened to the way our brains now work due to the ease in which we can satisfy our curiosity quickly via the internet? What's been lost in our brain power? We can now find answers within seconds, and all the time we used to spend thinking are gone. Seriously, has this affected how we think when we know answers can be found quickly?

Back in the day, we'd sit around the dinner table, many adults desperately using our brains trying to remember what other movie that some familiar-looking-but-we-couldn't-quite-place-him guy from the tv show was in. We'd think, "That Girl!" and someone would think and say, "No; that's not right," and someone else would say, "Blazing Saddles!" and the conversation would continue until someone got fed up and found a payphone and called their weird cousin who knew everything about crap tv and the matter would be solved.

Or, if someone said the capitol of Tennessee was Jonesberg, and everyone thought that wasn't right, there'd be a lot of mental anguish over finding the right answer.

But now, the answers are an internet connection away.

So the question is: have there been any interesting articles or books that explain neurologically (or otherwise) what this has done to our brains?
posted by kinetic to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Nicholas Carr's The Shallows
posted by hms71 at 7:20 AM on December 31, 2011

"Just check out what has google done to our brains", says Captain Obvious
posted by hexatron at 7:25 AM on December 31, 2011

"Check out Nicholas Carr's The Shallows"

... but be aware that Nicholas Carr is an unscientific, unnuanced dolt who rails against Wikipedia while drawing a paycheck from Encyclopedia Britannica.
posted by markkraft at 8:05 AM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

A more balanced view on how the internet effects cognition is expressed here, btw. You might have to dig to find the references mentioned, but hey... that's what the Internet is for, right?!
posted by markkraft at 8:11 AM on December 31, 2011

The Edge asked 172 people (including well known cognitive scientists, philosphers, and artists) to respond to exactly this question last year. Collectively, they wrote about 132,000 words on the topic.
posted by sashapearl at 8:34 AM on December 31, 2011

I think perhaps people now spend more time thinking about something more on the frontier, since the questions along the way have been answered and indexed by Google. New ground. New ideas. Advances. The rate of advance increases for a reason.
posted by Goofyy at 9:37 AM on December 31, 2011

Response by poster: These are sort of what I was looking for; let me try to explain what I mean a little more.

A massive part of past mental work used to be around trying to find answers. It required thinking, making connections, discussing those connections with others and forming new mental connections. It was lively brain exercise.

I'm not wondering how the internet has changed how we think (although that was interesting), I'm wondering if the internet has actually changed the wiring of our brains. We don't need to memorize information, we don't need to know how to research and make connections and think like we did 40 years ago.

So have our brains changed?
posted by kinetic at 3:26 PM on December 31, 2011

I don't recall how "scholarly" it is, but Hamlet's Blackberry addresses this topic
posted by Jandoe at 8:44 PM on December 31, 2011

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