As part of my full time job, I manage a group of interns from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. One of the interns, who is a junior, asked if I had read The Scarlett Letter, which led to a conversation about high school reading. She informed me that there’s a website that summarizes most books, and ‘translates’ Shakespeare into American English. “Oh,” I said, “Sounds like Cliff Notes.” To which she responded, “Like what?”
Turns out that a 16 year old high school student has never heard of Cliff Notes. To make matters worse–making me feel old–neither had the 23 year old in the office. I tried to explain the concept of having to purchase these booklets to have the summarized version of a book on hand and all I got were blank stares. I further explained that the first computer I ever touched had a black screen, green characters and a cursor that flashed. They just looked at each other. But that’s how it is. There’s an entire generation of people in our world that has no clue what a world without the ‘world’ at your fingertips is like. They don’t know life without Google.
Some say that having immediate access to information via search engines such as Google is making people stupid, but the author of a recent NPR article disagrees.
“We have evolved not to be representers-of-the-world, but to lock-in and keep track of where we find ourselves. We use landmarks and street signs to find our way around; arithmetical notation makes it possible for us to calculate with big numbers; we wear wrist watches so that we can know the time without needing to know the time; and we build libraries so that we have access to what we need to know, when we need to know it.
The so-called Google effect is merely the latest expression of a cognitive strategy that is almost as certainly as ancient as our species.”
Is not knowing better than knowing? Does information makes you smarter or are we, as the Bing commercial would have you believe, on information overload?
Check out comedian, Pete Holmes’ take on the subject: