August 23, 2015

Beneficial vs Detrimental Aspects of the Internet

I have been thinking lately about an argument I've long felt to be true on a humanist level, but there is considerable scientific research to support it. As a longtime computer enthusiast with advanced degrees in adult education, I have come to question what I once wholeheartedly embraced … that is, how do we distinguish between the beneficial & detrimental aspects of the Internet?

The argument in question?

- Greater access to knowledge is not the same as greater knowledge.

- An ever-increasing plethora of facts & data is not the same as wisdom.

- Breadth of knowledge is not the same as depth of knowledge.

- Multitasking is not the same as complexity.

The studies are troubling, to say the least. From what has been gleaned to date, it's clear that the brain retains a certain amount of plasticity throughout life -- that is, it can be reshaped, and the way that we think can be reshaped, for good or for ill. Thus, if the brain is trained to respond to and take pleasure from the faster pace of the digital world, it is reshaped to favor that approach to experiencing the world as a whole. More, it comes to crave that experience, as the body increasingly craves more of anything it's trained to respond to pleasurably and positively. The more you use a drug, the more you need to sustain even the basic rush.

And where does that leave the mind shaped by deep reading? Does your mind immerse itself in the universe of a book, rather than simply looking for a few key phrases and paragraphs? Does your mind develop through slow, quiet contemplation, mulling over ideas in their entirety, and grow as a result?

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