Monday, October 11, 2010

How Has The Internet Changed The Way You Think?

That was the annual question posed by Edge magazine. Here's one favorite response it ponder; it's from George Dyson, science/historian:


In the North Pacific ocean, there were two approaches to boat building. The Aleuts (and their kayak-building relatives) lived on barren, treeless islands and built their vessels by piecing together skeletal frameworks from fragments of beach-combed wood. The Tlingit (and their dugout canoe-building relatives) built their vessels by selecting entire trees out of the rain forest and removing wood until there was nothing left but a canoe.

The Aleut and the Tlingit achieved similar results — maximum boat / minimum material — by opposite means. The flood of information unleashed by the Internet has produced a similar cultural split. We used to be kayak builders, collecting all available fragments of information to assemble the framework that kept us afloat. Now, we have to learn to become dugout-canoe builders, discarding unnecessary information to reveal the shape of knowledge hidden within.

I was a hardened kayak builder, trained to collect every available stick. I resent having to learn the new skills. But those who don't will be left paddling logs, not canoes.

*** To read more responses from Nichols Carr, Howard Gardner, Howard Rheingold and others go to the Edge site and scroll down about one-third of the way until you see a grey box on the left with 172 contributors (sorry, the anchor link to there is not working properly). If you want to read more and have a New Trier login, go to CQ Researcher's recent (Sept. 24, 2010) report on "Impact of the Internet on Thinking"

And if you are looking for a book length discussion, read The Shallows and/or Cognitive Surplus.

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