How is the Internet changing our brains?

Discussion in 'Computer Science & Culture' started by Magical Realist, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Learning now more of process of independently-conducted information retrieval? Less reliance on institutionalized forms of knowledge or "fields of study" that are accessed only thru a meritocratic system of academic achievement? The selected-for advantage of the ability to quickly search and scan over vast terrains of data to find just those facts and ideas pertinent to one's purposes? Knowledge now more of an objective evaluation of current schools and pov's rather than the belief in a single ideology over all others. Information preprocessed and prepackaged for us in neat colorful little boxes giving the appearance of thought as already performed and so no longer necessary. Here's some other ways the internet may be changing our brains:
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  3. 11parcal Saint of Cynicism Registered Senior Member

    I like to think the internet is greatly expanding our knowledge, from a young age I've been surfing the web looking up anything and everything that interested me. At 13 or 14 I was extremely interested in particle physics, obviously I didn't fully grasp the mathematics involved but learning all about it and about science in general beefed up my knowledge enough to make science classes in public school laughably easy. This method of learning out of interest rather than being forced to learn I believe is one we should be harnessing in school systems in the future, if not now.
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  5. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

    It is just allowing for access to information that many others could get before but many others couldn't. This will help educate people and let them have more choices and opportunities to reach out to areas where they might not have ever thought about before. Then again it is going to be full of companies trying to sell there wares and services so more attention will be needed in choosing what to believe and what to buy.
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  7. wellwisher Banned Banned

    I was fortunate enough to be around, before personal computers and the internet. Back then, without these things, you needed to find things to do by spending more time out and about or with other people. People were in better shape, especially if physical activity and being outside was used to pass the time instead of web surfing. The 1980's, were the transition decade.

    The internet allowed people to find more things to do, alone, using a sedate lifestyle. One of the biggest lures in the early net was online porn. This brought males into the early net. Data mining was the gold rush of the early net. For the ladies there were the chat rooms and instant messaging, which were the precursors of texting, social networking and even discussion forums. This allowed peope to be anonymous and started the age of deception on the net.

    Back then, trolling was a technique analogous to a fisherman, where the staff of a discussion web sites would throw out bait to lure in fish (visitors). Everyone has an opinion about controversial topics like god and atheism, and you troll fish using this as bait. There was also music sharing where one could get music for nothing.

    The net grew via the underground, without rules, in sort of the old wild west style. Money is what caused the need for structure. Merchants need things on the up and up or else they might draw bad press. Even the term troll changed to mean those who depart from the structuring of the merchants or those who wish to become merchants.

    Programmers and Web masters were and are always looking for new eye candy in terms of site design. Tracking cookies, spyware, snoop-ware and virus and now GPS location and surfing analysis, work in the underground below consciousness. The wild west is more settled but the charm of the web is still the freedom.
  8. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    It may change people's brains in a similar way to calculators.
    which caused the rote learning of Times Tables to be neglected in education.

    Calculators made many children unable to do simple arithmetic except with a calculator.
    They had no mathematical common sense.
    For example, if asked:
    "Is 49 divided by 8 approximately 6 or 0.6?"
    they would find it difficult, and if by some accident they reached that answer using a calculator, they wouldn't see the mistake.

    They are now banned in junior schools maths exams so that children gain that ability.
    About 30 years too late, but hey, better late than never.

    Computers make information immediately available, so that it is unnecessary to commit information to memory.
    Can you see what mistakes you might make if you lost that ability?
    I think it would make you very stupid and error prone indeed.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2013
  9. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Judging from skull measurements, the human brain has been shrinking over the last 5,000 years or longer. One hypothesis attributes that to the rise of writing and symbolic systems, which allowed memory to be stored outside the brain. The wireless era enables people to retrieve such external memory even more quickly and on the go, accelerating this trend to only remember where information is located or how to retrieve it, rather than retaining vast specific details in skull meat. The equivalent of sages or "scholars" for primitive cultures of much earlier eras had to memorize by rote an astonishing quantity of a tribal data -- survival knowledge and cultural history -- in the form of story structures, songs, and other mnemonic/narrative devices (and conventional members carried incredible "maps" of their region / environment in their heads). Of course, tacit knowledge, often associated with outright physical skill rather than descriptive or analyzed understanding, will always have a special need for the body's native system as a whole until cyborg implants augment / partially replace the brain and overall nervous system.

    Another theory is that the shrinkage actually began with the introduction of farming:

    "...Looking at human fossil evidence for the past 200,000 years, Lahr looked at the size and structure of the bones and skulls found across Europe, Africa and Asia. What they discovered was that the largest Homo sapiens lived 20,000 to 30,000 years ago with an average weight between 176 and 188 pounds and a brain size of 1,500 cubic centimeters.

    They discovered that some 10,000 years ago however, size started getting smaller both in stature and in brain size. Within the last 10 years, the average human size has changed to a weight between 154 and 176 pounds and a brain size of 1,350 cubic centimeters.

    While large size remained static for close to 200,000 years, researchers believe the reduction in stature can be connected to a change from the hunter-gatherer way of life to that of agriculture which began some 9,000 years ago."

    Eh, calls to mind Isaac Asimov's The Naked Sun. Been a long time since I read that, but if I recollect correctly it involved a society where the individuals preferred to only have some form of long-distance surrogate or virtual contact with others, rather than directly in the flesh (developed a variety of phobias, actually).
  10. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    ................George W Bush became President of the USA.
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I don't know what I'd say about the internet in particular, but the previous landmark in the Electronic Revolution, the computer, was a lifesaver. I've always had a horrible short-term memory. I can remember my family's phone number in Chicago in 1952 when I was eight, but I can't remember that I have an important meeting tomorrow at 9am, so I don't bother to set the alarm at bedtime, so I wake up at 8am because I had a late night, and suddenly realize that I have to be on the road in fifteen minutes. No time to even eat breakfast.

    Nowadays I just keep a running calendar on my computer, and since it's a daily recurring task I remember to check it every night and morning--and at work since I keep a copy there too.

    When I get the first vague symptoms of Alzheimer's I'll be useless, since I already function that way. But my computer will save me. Of course I'll have to stick with an old-generation computer because I'd never be able to learn how to use a new one.

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    *** The Electronic Revolution, landmarks:
    • Telegraph, 1833 (first non-experimental civilian use)
    • Telephone, 1876
    • Radio, 1897
    • Television, 1928
    • Digital computer, 1948
    • Internet, 1969
  12. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    This increasingly useful projection of information as a virtual terrain thru which we can navigate is already in play in our culture. Go to a grocery store sometime without a shopping list. The way the store is laid out is designed to mnemonically guide you to the products you can't remember needing. Store section, then well-labeled aisles, then shelf sections specializing in certain categories of food like soups, starches, chips, sweets, etc. Memory is already being externalized for us into subject-based hierarchally-tiered labyrinths which we meditatively tred much as we are used to in places like in libraries and malls. I've always been suspicious as to how much we actually remember anyway. Isn't MOST memory really more about being reminded by environmental and topical cues? Indeed, doesn't written text itself already serve the role of a vast internalized cyberdomain thru which we surf finding the ideas we want to articulate and hash out?
  13. Jack Reacher Registered Member

    The easy answer is that the internet does not change our brains. You see the internet is a tool, and without prior knowledge how would you understand how to use it? If you did not understand how to operate a chainsaw, would you know to mix the oil and fuel, to prime it and adjust choke or just pick it up and pull the cord? You brain will store specific details and memory's although you may not recall this information for some days, weeks or even years it is still there. Human's as a species have failed one another, many have concealed their knowledge or have been influenced by television, radio, different types of music, money and the list just goes on. For instance, I choose to agree with Magical Realist. Almost every piece of knowledge known is now available at our fingertips , our commonly shared memory's are being externalized to numb our minds much quicker(I love the analogy of the grocery store by the way.) With the proper practice, you will retain all of your memory's, but typically you will only 'remember' when you hear or witness something that will trigger the brain to 'open the file' containing that information. Thus being said, the more you work on retaining your memory, and the more information you feed to your brain; overall you will triumph over all when sh*t really does go south.

    So as a conclusion, only you can 'change your mind' unless you are continuously manipulated by other factors, learning how to control those factors; whatever they may be will prove to be the true challenge. A healthy lifestyle will also prove key, well balanced nutrition and plenty of exercise will keep you in shape whilst feeding you brain knowledge is bacon to the eggs.

    Cheers, Jack R.
  14. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    I virtually have not spoke to anyone since the net started(around 14 years ago now for me), and i am glad. So the net is good for me, as verbally i never talk.

    So its helped my life in that way, although i have no interest in talking to people on net either. Just reading how you people interact with each other is the main reason i read forums. I hardly ever communicate on net too.

    I am sure its changed how others communicate too.

    For me i am glad its just bits and words, no pics or faces(i adblock all avatars and pics as much as possible, so my screen is just words). So its helped me, and i am glad you can use the net to communicate if you choose how you like.
  15. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    The instant access to information is incredible. It might require a little digging, but it's available like never before. The ability to learn something without buying a book or going to the library...invaluable.
  16. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    I am sure thats one big thing for the ptb, also it keeps people occupied, as many a life is so boring.

    I think you would learn alot more often just by listening to people whom have experienced stuff. If they are genuine they are invaluable to how you see the world.
    If you read a book by someone whom has researched something, its not the same as listening to people whom have lived it.

    Also how we tend on the net goto groups where we feel we fit in. Even though i hardly post i want to read things by people whom question the world they are in. In real life most people never come across others whom want to question the world, and why we live the way we do.
  17. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    I'm fortunate that I have access to those over 60. I find value with age. The internet is the domain of the young for the larger part. But that doesn't devalue its worth.
  18. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Its like what some say most people wake up if they infact do to the world after 30. I woke up at 17, and i was forced too with what the uk gov did to me.

    But i know what you mean, most people have no idea of the world, at least until its too late for them to change themselves or the world in that small way we all can, but most do not as they wake up too late.

    The net is the only way i interact with anyone, so it helps me in that way.
  19. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    My wife, son and daughter are the only people in my life with whom I might discuss politics or social issues. Certainly the internet is an avenue for expressing oneself where they might otherwise not have an opportunity. I think it widens peoples perspective as a result--whether they realize it or not.
  20. Joaquin Sleuth Registered Senior Member

    I think it can change the brain structure, yes. I think prolonged use of the internet can cause cerebral atrophy. Brain shrinkage from prolonged use of the internet.

    I wouldn't know, though. I never leave the internet. I think the vast amounts of information at our fingertips is great but also very alarming. I think it can make you smarter but it can also make you an addict, too. I think there's pro's and con's of the internet, and internet usage. I personally think the internet is a bad thing from a social standpoint as opposed to a financial one. And i think most people escape from their real life when they use the internet. It's escapism at it's finest.
  21. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Uh... what??

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    I think that one thing that the internet might be doing is shortening our attention spans.

    Text just seems... longer... when it's presented on a screen, compared to when it's presented on a printed page. So writing on the internet seems to me to be getting shorter, often only a handful of paragraphs in length, as opposed to a 200 page book.

    I don't text or use Twitter, but that has to be the reductio-ad-absurdem of what I'm talking about, and many kids are growing up with that, and with thinking in that way.

    Back in antiquity people used to memorize entire books and were able to recite them accurately, word by word. Buddhist monks would learn nikayas from the Sutta Pitaka that way, Brahmans would learn the Vedas... by heart. You still see a little of that today, in traditional Tibetan-style education, where a few so-called "root texts" are sometimes still memorized.

    Where in the past these kind of things were a normal part of what passed for higher-education, today such feats appear to be almost superhuman.

    The printing press changed everything, by making books easily available in bookshops. So people's whole style of reading changed, from reading a very small number of hand-written manuscripts very closely, line by line and word by word, to reading lots of lengthy books, often just in part, while memorizing very little of it.

    And today, we seem to find ourselves in a new kind of situation again, where we have almost instant access to short little factoids on almost any conceivable subject.
  22. Stanley Registered Senior Member

    Computers have made me better at multitasking. Perhaps a better way to look at this is how computers have changed our brains. It's just a bunch of programs running, the internet is interactive. I communicate with people i would never communicate with before, in my small town. I guess one way to look at it we are all more advanced than most. When i think about it are we not smarter than the smartest person say 100 years or so ago? Dont we know more? Looks like we are voracious readers.

    I grew up with computers, first generation actually.
    Last edited: May 25, 2013
  23. kmguru Staff Member

    With Internet we have spent massive amount of money in Wars and nothing for the bridge construction and destroying our Economy....but understood those facts...just a thought....may be we need to have better processes to change this...

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