On becoming Google-stupid, a digital dummy

As we become more computer dependent, there is an emerging argument that we are fast becoming intellectual mutants. Does increased screen time equate directly to a devolving humanity?

A few nights ago, our family saw an interesting and frightening CBC documentary entitled “Are We Digital Dummies?” This is worth every minute of your time!

http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/doczone/video.html?ID=1651031614

As we cope with our wired world, we’re at the point that we must begin probing whether we can think for ourselves and socially interact? Are we all fast becoming “Google-stupid”?

Herbert Simon, Nobel Prize winning economist, wrote: “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” And for those who believe that information is power, Albert Einstein warned: “Information is not knowledge.”

The documentary and these learned reflections took me back to a previously written article that was first published in the By George Treasury.  In this excerpt, we make a few suggestions for dealing with our modern day info-glut.

It is the amount of data that a person is expected to absorb that is scary. Consider that a daily edition of the N.Y. Times contains as much information as the average 17th century person would have come across in an entire lifetime. At our workplace, the average corporate worker receives 191 messages – 51 phone calls, 39 e-mails, 16 internal memos, and 20 items of outside mail. 

The amount, and pace are becoming unbelievable. We offer some hints on how you might avoid receiving so much… and give yourself some healthy ‘headspace.’  

  • Find a place of your own and sit and close your eyes for five – fifteen minutes, in the morning, noon and night.
  • Don’t take work or work related materials to bed with you.
  • Don’t take reading materials – or your blackberry or iPad – to the washroom (this could be your five – fifteen minute mental break).
  • At home, turn the TV – and all screens – off at least two hours at night.
  • Travel to work with the radio/i-pod off at least half your travel time.
  • At work, schedule time when you will concentrate on a single screen and not answer phones or e-mails. 

So, do you need to find a road to recovery? Step one to a better life-computer balance is recognizing the threats of your daily routines. Begin by watching “Are We Digital Dummies?” Step two would be to unplug for one evening and think this through for yourself.

2 thoughts on “On becoming Google-stupid, a digital dummy

  1. Jeremy Holden

    Thank you for this succinct piece. As someone who has spent much of my career contributing to the almost 5000 messages of varying kinds that (according to Yankelovich) a city dweller may consciously or unconsciously absorb in a single day, I’m forced to reflect on the ADHD generation that I’ve helped to foster.

    The factoid about there being as much information in a single weekend edition of NYT as a 17th Century person would absorb in a lifetime is one of my favorites, and one which I cite in my forthcoming book Culture Shifts.

    Reply
    1. CG

      Thank you Jeremy for these thoughts. As you have intimated, I am often left to wonder about the impact on society of individuals’ over-dependency on digital exchanges and their increasing doses of daily screen time.

      Reply

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