Search engines have changed the way we think; but is it all bad news?
Gone are the days when vampires sucked blood, and zombies attacked human brains. Welcome to the digital era where binary digits replace medieval horrors. Just when some of the conspiracy theorists among us were done hypothesising about Google’s plans for world domination, scientists made a startling discovery.
Studies conducted by a team of scientists at Columbia University have yielded that with the rise of information accessibility tools like search engines, the functioning of the human brain has been altered. From remembering significant bits of information, it now remembers where to find that information online. This means that very often, the mind does not store data that it knows is easily available on the internet.
According to one of the researchers, Betsy Sparrow, The World Wide Web has turned into “an external memory source that we can access at any time”. Such a change in the brain’s processing might suggest that human dependence on the computer has increased to the extent of man having a symbiotic relationship with technology.
Sparrow further suggests, “Just as we learn through transactive memory [about] who knows what in our families and offices, we are learning what the computer ‘knows’, and when we should attend to where we have stored information in our computer-based memories. We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools”.
While conspiracy theorists are busy having their ‘Aha! We-told-you-so’ moment, this may not be such a bad thing after all – depending upon how you look at it, of course. Some people believe that this development is detrimental to the human mind, while others argue that it is part of the human mind’s evolution and adaptation to the requirements of the 21th century.