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Internet Making Our Brains Different, Not Dumb

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A decade from now, Google won't make us "stupid," the Internet may make us more literate in a different kind of way, and efforts to protect individual anonymity will be even more difficult to achieve, according to many of the experts surveyed for a look at "The Future of the Internet" in 2020.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center asked nearly 895 technology "stakeholders and critics" about their expectations for the Internet 10 years from now. Among those queried: representatives from the Institute for the Future, Association of Internet Researchers, professors, Internet law and privacy experts, Internet pioneers and those in the business world.

One of the questions they were asked was whether Google, in some ways a metaphor for the ease of information on the Internet, "will make people stupid" because of society's over-reliance on the search engine and the Web for everything from addresses to easily copied school reports to "Googling" prospective suitors or employees.

The notion was addressed in a 2008 story for The Atlantic titled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" by author Nicholas Carr.

Carr wrote that "For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many."

In the Pew study, 76 percent of the respondents said they agree that by 2020, "people’s use of the Internet has enhanced human intelligence; as people are allowed unprecedented access to more information, they become smarter and make better choices. Nicholas Carr was wrong: Google does not make us stupid."

Another 21 percent disagreed, and said a decade from now, "people’s use of the Internet has not enhanced human intelligence and it could even be lowering the IQs of most people who use it a lot. Nicholas Carr was right: Google makes us stupid."

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