Is the internet making us more intelligent?

cyber_girl.jpgCNET has put the first in a series of articles online about whether new technology is making us more intelligent.

There are several ways of asking the question:

Is the use of new technology shaping our minds and brains so they are better able to process information in all situations ? Essentially this is the ‘technology as a mental gym’ idea.

Alternatively, perhaps technology doesn’t change our basic mental performance at all, but gives us practice solving problems that provides techniques that can be applied more widely. For example, selecting the most appropriate keywords for a web search might involve quickly summarising a topic into some key concepts – something that is useful in everything from day-to-day conversation to public speaking to writing essays.

Another approach is asking whether technology simply makes us pragmatically more intelligent. For example, we can ‘remember’ more because we can offload a lot of the work to personal organisers or we ‘know’ more because we have instant access to the web and Wikipedia.

The CNET article has quotes from technology leaders who, perhaps understandably, plug the benefits of technology. Psychologists also chime in, and conclude that technology itself does nothing except give us useful tools, rather than boost our brains specifically.

The article does raise some interesting questions, however, particularly in light of evidence suggesting that mental ‘exercise’ can prevent cognitive decline in the elderly.

Link to CNET article ‘Intelligence in the Internet age’

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