Monday, September 29, 2008

The Internet and the Decline of Individual Thought

The Internet is a powerful invention of the 20th Century. It has changed the way that information is transmitted and has opened up a wealth of knowledge to those that choose to use it. Through blogs and social networking sites, like Facebook and forums, people can share ideas and discuss the latest news. However, with this level of connectedness, there is a danger that our minds will become homogenized and that individual thought will grow increasingly less important.

In the Internet age, if someone wants to know something, they can find the desired information immediately through websites like Google or Wikipedia. This is convenient, but doesn’t foster original thought. In the past, when information was harder to come by, people had to put more effort into finding answers to their questions. Nowadays, you can find information nearly effortlessly, with a machine doing all the work. If you can come to a conclusion without thinking, then you aren’t really learning. Furthermore, if you can simply find whatever you want through a quick Google search, then you don’t really need to retain that information either. Because of this, people may become content to let their mind stagnate.

By the very fact that we are all connected to each other and to the world’s information, each of us is in danger of becoming less individual in our thoughts and opinions. You can already see a group mentality in the Internet through memes. There are thousands of Internet memes, all very annoying. The very nature of a meme encourages endless repetition for no reason except for the propagation of worthless information. Instead of thinking about an issue or topic, it is easy for a person to use a meme or image that provides a cookie cutter answer. This can be humorous and fun, but if this is what the entire world turns into, we will not advance. If, for every conversation, you could have an automated system provide you with suitable sentences, then you wouldn’t be thinking for yourself.

The Internet age holds a lot of promise. There are endless things to see and countless things to learn, but there is a risk that we may actually lose our ability to think for ourselves. There is a sea of knowledge on the web, but we should use it to augment our own capabilities, rather than replace them.

Image taken from Wikipedia.