Does Google reduce our ability to think?

Posted on September 21, 2008  /  1 Comments

When I started teaching, a weekly visit to the library was a necessary ritual.   Physically leafing through the indexes and abstracts, writing down the classification numbers (I still fondly recall the HE 7700s), and then walking into the stacks to pick up the books, scan for others that may be of interest that didn’t come up from the indexes, sitting in some corner trying to decide which ones to haul back to the office . . . these were familiar and pleasurable activities.

Then the library catalog (along with those of almost all the university libraries in the state) came online.   Now the searching was mostly from the office.  Then came the delivery service.  I could order the book online and it would turn up in my cubby hole the next day.   The visits to the library became more infrequent, now mostly to parse the journals.

Fast forward ten years.   I am horizontal on the couch, laptop on a cushion.  Not all the resources of the wonderful Ohio State U library, but enough to get by and much easier to access, thanks to Google’s efforts to organize and make available all the information in the world.   I miss my visits to the library and the touch and feel of real journals and real books, but cannot say that my appreciation of the ability to get the computer to search for things does not overshadow that nostalgia.

And now, someone is saying that Google reducing our ability to think?  I may write less than I should because I am always searching for that one last piece of evidence that might turn up in that last Google search, but do I think any less?  Hell, no.   Thanks for freeing us from the tyranny of memory and for giving us information when we want it.  Thanks Google.

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