Thanks to Google search and Gmail's ever-expanding capacity, I don't have to remember much of anything anymore beyond a unique string or group of words to call up facts, dates and important documents. Convenient? Yes, as long as my laptop is nearby. But is my brain rewiring itself to rely on Web-based memory? That's what Matt Asay is arguing on News.com. Asay highlights quotes from Nick Carr's article in The Atlantic which suggest our malleable mind is increasingly dependent on the Internet for cognition. Does that make Google the sizzling pan, and our brains fresh eggs ready for a fryup? I'm not so sure.
It's certainly what Douglas Engelbart had in mind when he worked to develop his NLS or "oNLine System," for the Augmentation Research Center, which pulled together early networks, graphical user interfaces and hypertext way back in the late '60s in an effort to expand the scope of the mind. Since then, we've been told that multitasking lowers our IQ worse than marijuana — never mind the fact Englebart and other early computing researchers were a bunch of acid-dropping potheads.
That study probably revealed more about how dated the IQ test is than how harmful multitasking might be. Have you met people in Mensa? Not really as smart as you'd think. So feel free to go back to memorizing The Odyssey and reciting it in the town square if ancient measures of brainpower and conceptions of intellect are your thing — me, I'm just glad what few brain cells I have left are adapting at all. (Photo by Beatrice Murch)