Poch Peralta

Freelance Writer / Blogger,


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If the Internet is making us dumber, in what ways does it do it?

Technology is making us lazy and forgetful

Pilots Have Become Too Reliant on Computers
Asiana crash proves the point

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    Dec 13 2013: As a student I can tell you by giving an example.
    On google if you type a few letters of a word it try to give you the word meaning you dont have to remember how to spell.
    In newspaper I have read an article that says that today generation is less concerned on spelling words based on a research.
    Secondly in my childhood I like to go over books to find a matter, and in this course I like to learn few things but now I just type the keywords and get the exact answer I want. So it is prohibiting me to learn new things.
    But as we know every thing has certain pros and cons so it also does.
    Internet is also saving my time that can be utilised to learn new.
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      Dec 13 2013: Very good examples Shobhit! You reminded me that
      the Net is also ruining our grammar through textese or online
      social chats.

      'So it is prohibiting me to learn new things.'
      It also made us lazy making us using web searches or googling
      instead of using books for research and as references.

      Good of you to mention the positive. Yes. The Net saves our
      time 'that can be utilised to learn new.'
  • Dec 18 2013: I would not say technology is causing us to be dumber but rather the dependence without experience or training to use it properly. Let me give 2 examples:

    1. An experiment was run at Harvard. PHD math candidates from MIT and Harvard were given a test made by the math departments of Harvard and MIT. They were divided into 3 groups: A had full use of every tool including a super computer, B had some computer time, C had paper and pencil. The test was graded on who had the best solutions by other professors than those that created the test. Group B was rated best, C next and A last. Because of the technology was used incorrectly, group A came up with less than optimal solutions.

    2. A large corporation had a layoff and laid off engineers they thought they did not need. When the orders came in, they hired new engineers. They knew how to run the tests and see what passed or failed. They did not understand the tests and why they were running the tests due the lack of training and experience.
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      Dec 18 2013: Great examples Wayne.
      In example 1, group A failed because they let computers control them
      by making them overconfident.

      In example 2, it's very possible that it's the company that was over
      confident and presumed that the new hires are more tech-savvy and
      so were more reliable.
      • Dec 18 2013: You are right about example 1. Example 2, management thought the technology would handle it and they did not need experienced trained engineers.
  • Dec 16 2013: Saying the internet makes us dumber is like saying that using a pen and paper for calculations limits your inherent ability to do math.

    It inhibits your ability to do math in your head, true, and it develops a certain reliance, but it also enables you to do much more complex math then you could otherwise, because you don't have to devote a portion of your brain to remember the small details as you work on them.

    I find that if anything, people get more work done when its easier. And if they're more productive, why should I care if they don't work as hard to get there? Teaching hard work is for children.
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      Dec 16 2013: '...I find that if anything, people get more work done when its easier.
      And if they're more productive, why should I care if they
      don't work as hard to get there?'

      Great philosophy Nadav and I see your point and agree. Thanks.
  • Dec 15 2013: The first question you have to ask is what does dumb mean? if we are talking about dumb in the context of docile and obedient than no it is'nt making us dumb. remeber the internet wasnt founded that to long ago compared to fire a resource of nature that helped us develope as a species. The internet like fire has Good and Evil points that can made such as the global socialisation movement and on the other hand oppressed information, I mean who do you realy believe and is that web page reliable?

    something that us as a human race need to take into account is that not everything is "true" per say.
    This leads on to my next topic books and knowledge. books harver information and through infomation comes knowledge. knowledge is power and power is the root to all evil... yada yada yada... I could go on all day... but putting it blunt the internet isn't making us dumb no, we are just at a cross roads like a cat stuck in headlights... overwhelmed by what we see. like fire we will come not to master it but to live along side it and use the internet as a part of our nature.
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      Dec 15 2013: Very good question Nathan. I think I should define 'dumb' here as
      'careless' and I agree that the Net isn't making us docile and
      obedient. On the contrary, it provides us tools that could turn
      us hyperactive!

      '...we are just at a cross roads like a cat stuck in headlights...
      overwhelmed by what we see.'

      Yes! The Net could shock us again and again. It depends on
      what we seek inside it.

      We will not master the Net like 'fire' but should we learn how
      'to live along side it'? I think what we should learn is how to control it.
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    Dec 13 2013: Nothing makes anyone dumb / dumber except s/he her/himself.
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      Dec 13 2013: I wholeheartedly agree Salim:>)
      Nothing can "make" us dumb, and to even think that is possible, one has to give that power to something external, rather than realizing that as intelligent human beings, we make choices.
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      Dec 13 2013: Maybe that's why I mean when I say we either control tech
      or let it control us. Thanks Salim.
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    Dec 31 2013: There's certainly something to be said for commercial pilots becoming too reliant on computers. Computers are great for quad-copters and fighter pilots because maneuvering effectively might otherwise be impossible or severely limited. But the lives of commercial flight passengers shouldn't be dependent on a computer system.

    As for the main question, it's somewhat akin to "If television makes us dumber, what ways does it do it?". They're both mediums that can have a profound effect either way. Imagine if instead of partisan politics and Jersey Shore, cable networks syndicated a constant slew of documentaries, inspirational life stories, and news coverage of real issues that the masses may be able to do something about? The internet is possibly a better medium because it gives us a choice over the content we would like to consume. But if people still choose to consume partisan politics and Jersey Shore, then perhaps the downsides of our current cable content are just being accelerated.
    • Dec 31 2013: Why shouldn't people's lives depend on a computer?
      Sure it can have bugs or malfunction, but so can a human pilot.

      Completely ignoring the economic aspect, I feel safer in the hands of an automated system once its been properly tried and tested. Computers don't fall asleep, they don't get sick, don't lapse in attention, and aren't susceptible politics, religion or ideology which may convince them to turn against me.
      Having a human backup is a good idea until the system is declared "properly tried and tested", but if anything, computers are better at this sort of thing then a pilot.
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        Dec 31 2013: That's certainly a good point, and I've never trusted my pilot. I don't like the idea of riding in an air bus piloted by someone I've never met. Trusting a pilot has some of the same implications as trusting a computer - it gives us a single point of failure, for instance.

        Though in the case of the link above, the computer shouldn't have been the single point of failure - the pilots should have been able to fly properly without it if need be.

        But I would worry more about bugs in a program than the mental/physical health of my pilot. Computers do fall asleep, are susceptible to politics, etc. - in a way, at least, because they're designed by people that do. Programs are complex, convoluted structures and the surface area for human errors is vast, as well as the possible attack surface. And experience tells us what to expect from corporate code - bugs, bugs, lack of foresight, bugs and stupidity.

        I would hope that any flight software would be crafted with time, care, intellect, testing, and with all the design decisions aimed at creating the most logical possible solutions. But we know that the real world has deadlines, budgets, and a strict hierarchal institutionalism restricting design decisions to specific individuals.

        An interesting case study here is ADS-B - our next-gen air traffic control system. With ADS-B, planes can emit data packets, messages that identify the plane, where it's going, its GPS, etc. These messages feed the radar screens of other planes and ground stations. It promises to be cheaper than traditional radar systems, though people have increasingly spoken out that it can only be sanely used alongside them. ADS-B is almost 20 years in the making, with some real security concerns. The signals are easy to intercept and easy to spoof. Someone gave a presentation at Defcon about tracking the signals with an old TV antenna.

        Here's a recent article - http://www.scmagazine.com.au/News/367996,flaws-found-in-mandated-aircraft-safety-system.aspx
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        Dec 31 2013: Pilots have become too reliant on computers but it's still the pilots who
        should be responsible for accidents. Computers are not yet controlling pilots.
        So I think I should agree with you Nadav.
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      Dec 31 2013: TV gives us choices as much as the Net does but we learn slower from TV because it's
      visually oriented.
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    Dec 18 2013: Is Artificial Intelligence a Technology Too Late to Control Now?

    'The skeptics fear that a toxic mix of artificial intelligence, robotics and bio- and nanotechnology could make previous threats of nuclear devastation seem “easy” to manage by comparison. These people aren’t cranks. They’re folks like Jaan Tallinn, the 41-year-old Estonian programming whiz who helped create Skype and now fears he’s more likely to die from some AI advance run amok than from cancer or heart disease. Or Lord Martin Rees, a dean of Britain’s science establishment whose last book bore the upbeat title, “Our Final Century ” and who with Tallinn has launched the Center for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge to think through how bad things could get and what to do about it.

    'Now comes James Barrat with a new book — “Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era” — that accessibly chronicles these risks and how a number of top AI researchers and observers see them. If you read just one book that makes you confront scary high-tech realities that we’ll soon have no choice but to address, make it this one...'
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    Dec 13 2013: Not only the Net could make us dumber. It could also ruin lives
    Google autocomplete might have ruined this man's life

    'A cautionary tale: Back in 2009, government contractor Jeffrey Kantor was browsing online, seeking to make a radio-controlled airplane for his son. He began to type his search into Google: “How do I build a radio-controlled”—[enter autocomplete]—”bomb.” That's right, before Kantor knew it, he had accidentally asked Google how to make an explosive device. And his life would never be the same.

    'According to a suit filed in federal court this week by Kantor and as Gawker reported, after his Google autocomplete mishap, the government began harassing Kantor, putting him under constant surveillance and ultimately getting him fired...'