It is fun to reflect on and appreciate the technological advancements of our modern world, isn’t it? After all, most would comfortably agree that our society is at the apex of intellectual aptitude. However, is it fair to assume that the intelligence of our collective species implies the same for the individuals within it?
In a day where any and all information appears readily available at our fingertips, we are changing the way we utilize the very instrument which made it all possible! In a day where answers can be accessed as quickly as the question is asked, we are changing the way we store and retrieve information. We are changing the way we think!
When used correctly, the internet can substantiate a single minds ability to problem solve – when used incorrectly, however, it can stifle creativity and undermine the processing power of the mind.
With a basic understanding of how memory works, and a bit of, dare I say it, deductive reasoning, one can fathom how the rise in search engine usage is likely to correspond to an increase in dementia in the youth of our society.
With an open mind, consider how you can help future generations avoid further degeneration!
How (we think) we think
It does not take a master of cognitive psychology to grasp the basic processes of memory storage and retrieval. While I would not do the subject justice by trying to summarize the depth of this process in a mere blog post – if so inclined – do a, ::cough, cough::, Google Search on the topic to ‘refresh your memory’. After all, the majority of us have already studied and been tested on this process at some point in school!
In a very general sense, however, consider the two highest-level components of memory to be “storage” and “retrieval”. There are many phases making up the storage process – and there are several items that aid our ability to retrieve, or recall, that information.
The real point for your consideration – is how BOTH of those elements are changing with the rise in search engine usage, and how those changes could have a dramatic impact on our ability to ‘think for ourselves’ down the line!
The Mind is a Muscle: How are you exercising it?
The mind is a muscle, but due to the technology we have available to us – the need for it to be the dynamic problem solving machine it is (and/or has the propensity to be) has decreased.
The mind is a muscle, technology is the problem, let’s work it out together….
We are Learning to Prioritize Breadth over Depth:
There is no question that the advent of the internet has provided the ‘Average Joe’ the opportunity to become somewhat knowledgeable in pretty much any subject of their choosing.
We live in a world (wide web) where folks focus much more on “breadth” of knowledge than “depth”. In an ADD-riddled world, we are further crippling our ability to master any one subject matter by scattering our focus across hundreds of subject matters.
Tip of the Tongue Syndrome:
Something comes to mind – but you can’t quite recall. What’s that word? What was that place? What was the movie?
We used to rack our brains for minutes, hours, even days when we encountered “tip of the tongue syndrome”. Now what do we do? We do a Google Search.
How our Usage of Search Engines is Changing the Way we Remember
The Retrieval Process:
We do not exercise our minds in the same way we used to. We immediately defer to the internet when something is not immediately surfaced at the forefront of our minds.
We are no longer exercising the most important muscle in our bodies, and as with any muscle which is inadequately worked out, it will see atrophy over time.
confession: I must admit that I just spent about 5 minutes trying to ‘recall’ the word atrophy, but in the theme of this article, I am very happy to report that I did not have to rely on a search engine to find it – it was on the tip of my tongue… which means that I had the answer are along!)
The Storage Process:
Knowing, even if not consciously, that we have all the answers available to us on the internet, actually undermines how we store information as we first learn it.
We are changing the way we think, learn, store, and retrieve information due to this ‘repository of knowledge’ which we naively believe will always be available to us at the flip of a switch!
This is a natural change due to our environment. We are instinctively efficient creatures, programmed to utilize the fewest resources possible to obtain our goals.
In layman’s terms? As we become more efficient at utilizing external resources, we are less effective at utilizing our internal resources!
As our central repository of knowledge on the internet becomes, um, ‘smarter’ — we in turn, by and large, become, um, dumber!!
From a “Problem Solving Machine” to a “Questionnaire Switch-board”
Through our usage of search engines and the internet, we are learning to remember the ‘questions’ to ask rather than the answers themselves. Our brains have becoming “fact tables” at best, and more often than not, are becoming more like ‘questionnaire switch-boards”.
What does this mean? It means that we know that, by default, as long as we have a question – we do not need to store the answer. In some ways this is again, an efficient use of ‘system resources’. It is a balance, however.
Regression of the Brain Machine:
To arbitrarily categorize brain power in a couple different levels, consider these phases, in order from least powerful to most powerful.
Level 1 – The Brain as Questionnaire Switch-board:
A brain which serves as a courier for information by simply ‘asking a question’ and allowing the answer to come from an external source.
LEvel 2 – The Brain as a Fact Table:
A brain which stores facts, it knows answers because it recalls answers – but does not ‘reprocess’ information or ‘recalculate’. It is simple ‘brute force’ recall. A brain can respond “two” when it hears “what is one plus one”, but did that brain actually ‘recalculate’ that number or did it just regurgitate what it knew to be true based on calculations of the past?
Level 3 – The Brain as a Processor:
A brain that is a MACHINE. It recalculates, re-calibrates It takes in new information, new questions, and processes the data points and retrieves solutions. This is what we are slowly losing through an over-reliance of the external sources we have available to us in modern times.
6 Tips to Maintain your Brain and Maximize YOUR MIND MACHINE!
Tip 1 – Treat your Mind like a Machine, not a Database!
Focus on thinking of your mind as a machine, the brain as a processor. It is a model which can solve, and resolve, the same or new problems over and over again.
You do not need to ‘store more information’ by treating your brain like a processor – it just needs to reprocess information as you go!
It sounds simple, but can be quite profound once you’ve truly embraced this concept!
Tip 2 – Have fun with tip of the tongue syndrome!
Do not fall victim to our urge for immediate satisfaction. Avoid Google Searching the answer — nothing is more rewarding than arriving at the answer YOURSELF!
Tip 3 – Learn something new by starting with YOURSELF!
Next time you want to learn a new subject matter, before diving into the internet, hypothesize the answer yourself! Worst case scenario, you will put yourself in a better position to absorb the information you learn in the future by having already speculated for yourself. Best case scenario, you may surprise yourself with just how much you already knew about a subject matter you thought you knew nothing about!!
Tip 4 – Exercise that Mind!
Play with your memory – try calculating numbers in your head instead of immediately deferring to a calculator. Remember, your mind is a muscle – and exercise is important, have fun with it.
Tip 5 – Practice to be more Perfect!
At the end of the day – replay some of the events from your day. What did you learn? What did you feel? What did you think? What would you do differently? This exercise will enable you to not only be better at recalling events of the day in the future (through repetition), but will also put you in a better position to grow from your experiences in the future
Tip 6 – BE INTUITIVE!
The mind is more magical than we tend to give it credit – but by not giving it credit, we undermine its potential from the get-go. KNOW that you KNOW already – believe in yourself and the power of your mind – all that information available on the internet started from a mind at some point, there is no reason that your mind would not have arrived at the same conclusions.
In the end, life is always about balance my friends! Rest assured, I have a strong appreciation for the internet – after all, as a digital marketing analyst, my career is built upon it!
However, it is important as individuals that we do not undermine OUR MACHINES by overusing THE MACHINE!!
– – +- -+- Related article from Silent Revelries on the Impact of Social Networking:
6 thoughts on “How Search Engine Usage will Correspond to a Rise in Dementia”
My brain seems to work on overdrive because of the internet. No more long searches on small subjects, finding references in sources at an instant. Even if my memory is not trained as it used to be, the rest of my brain works faster
No question Bert! As you know better than most – it’s all about “balance” in life! As someone on a message board just put it though, they’ve heard people say they do not care to learn something because they can just ‘look it up later if they need to’ — but I think the bigger issue is that, over time, fewer and fewer people are utilizing their minds as a dynamic problem solving tool… To your point, I think it is an excellent tool to expedite any research process — but as a whole, people are becoming less in touch with their own innovative problem solving capabilities because they’re not leveraging those capabilities near as frequently as they used to! Again though – I think there is always a perfect balance, I just do not think many are considering a need for balance at this point.
I just sometimes wonder how many people would need to be taught how to make fire again if the lights ever go out lol! Thanks for your comment!!
I think that people always have chosen the path of the least effort … I know myself .. i only got interest when the path of least resistance ended in some sort of agony. 🙂 Everyone will sooner or later be confronted with their own ignorance. If they then realize that it is never to late, they might be ok. 🙂
Second smile, widening, without any effort … hope you feel some of it.
Nevertheless, you have a good point, but whether it will lead to dementia?
I think the internet is leading to a diminishing middle class in North America and Europe … that might become a problem in the next 10 years.
Good points Bert – and indeed, many factors are related to a diminished middle class, but the internet’s acceleration of globalized business and economy will certainly not help that cause!
I would say the internet is a necessary evil. I agree, the mind grows rusty due to lack of use, but the internet has also made available so much information which we would not have had otherwise. I like your tips to keep the brain exercising, I sometimes fear that this dependence on technology is going to be evolutionary bad for the human race, as so far we’ve gotten along so far only because of our brains. But if used in the right way, the internet can enhance our thinking power and make us smarter individuals. We need to work with technology to enhance our brain power, rather than taking the easy road and just using the internet like we would use a calculator.
Exactly! Very well put!!
“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” ~Albert Einstein