A new study
has shown that our mental abilities may be deteriorating thanks to the easy access we have to online search engines. Bits of knowledge that we intuitively know will be available via Google or Wikipedia (pornography and lists of Rainbow Brite
episodes, respectively) don't get remembered, and instead essentially get replaced with mental links to those resources. This leaves extra room for the part of our brains that enjoys applying captions to pictures of cats.
No one really knows yet how to interpret this. Is this a sensible response to the creation of a massive external repository of information, proof that we're becoming smarter thanks to the Internet? Or, on the other hand, r we dummer? And would any of this change if the Internet was shut off? How fast would things go all
Lord of the Flies
if that happened? Would we even be capable of making Lord of the Flies
references without the ability to Google what that was?
Was the conch important? I definitely remember thinking that the conch was important. They sat on it, right?
I've basically grown up on the Internet, and the possibility that this experience has damaged my brain frankly rings true. I will Google everything, and when I'm not doing that, it's because I've just wikied something. I once logged on to TVtropes and didn't come out for eight days. If you were to ask me what I did yesterday, I could only blink and reply, "Internet. Regret."
Obviously, anecdotal evidence is nothing to base a scientific study on, but it is a hell of a way to frame a column. So to find out more about the subject, and to get some external reassurance that my own mental faculties were "basically still there," I enlisted the help of Professor Stephen Hodges at the University of Canada.
Foreground: The School of Particle and Beaver Physics.
Using the smallest words he could, Dr. Hodges explained that I was probably fine and should calm down. But he was willing to set up a series of experiments to mirror those published in the earlier study, to test my ability to recall things with and without the assistance of the Internet. After surrendering my smartphone to him, he showed me to a simple white room with a table, two chairs and a computer.
Cracked: OK, Dr. Hodges. So how's this going to work?
Dr. Hodges: Well first we're going to do a bit of a baseline test of your general knowledge and ability to use the Internet. When filling in this questionnaire, you can use this computer if you feel it necessary.
C: Got it. Let's do this the only way I know how.
C: Big Willie Style of course.