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Monday, May 14, 2007

Google - the other part of my brain

There’s an interesting aspect of Google’s impact on our daily lives. The Internet is so useful - despite its quite chaotic organization - and Google is so good at retrieving information, that we don’t bother to remember anything anymore. How many times did you catch yourself typing some keywords into Google to get to a specific website? Do you realize that by doing this, you’ve subconsciously chosen to remember what keywords you need to type into Google instead of remembering the actual address of the web site in question? Your brain is telling you that you don’t need to remember these things because Google knows them all. Capital cities? Presidents? Math?
I used to be able to quickly convert pounds to kilograms. Currently, I lack this knowledge, because I know that Google has built-in unit conversion capabilities. Simply type X pounds to kilograms into Google and you get the answer. How hard it is to remember that 1 pound is 0.45359237, or 0.45 kilograms? Not that hard. But, there are many units that need to be converted. In the end, my brain gave up this battle, because it knows that Google already knows this stuff, and Google is always available. What happens if I’m abroad and need to quickly convert between pounds and kilograms? Problem.
James Thomas from CenterNetworks recently did an interesting experiment - he tried to completely eliminate Google from his online life. He doesn’t go into too many details, but this quote is revealing enough: “I’m not going to lie, life without Google has been hell online.” Yes, there are alternatives, but Google is so damn good at what it does, that going without it makes gathering information - and we’re all becoming information junkies - much, much harder.
Ask yourself the following questions:
How many times did you use Google to find an article within a specific website instead of using this website’s search?

How many times were you offline and annoyed because you couldn’t just look some info up on Google?

How often do you use Google to do really simple tasks, the type of tasks you used to easily do with pen and paper in highschool (like unit conversion, simple math, calculating time-zone differences)?

Let’s face it: we’re not exactly becoming brighter by using Google. In fact, in the traditional education sense, we’re getting stupider, at least with certain types of tasks. However, we’ve learned to do something else. We’ve learned how to use Google to get information. It sounds like an evolutionary step, a natural progression. Instead of using your brain, you’re using something else - something that works faster and easier. It will be interesting to see how this - if it keeps up, and my bet is that it will - will affect our ability to think in the future.
Google Operating System defines Google as “The other part of my brain”. They might be onto something there.
This was seized 4 u at Mashable


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