The Internet is eroding human thinking: Why do we lower our intellect to a machine?

In a haunting final scene of “2001: A Space Odyssey“, HAL – the rebellious supercomputer with artificial intelligence – pleaded with Dave Bowman not to kill it.”Dave, don’t do that. Don’t do that, will you stop, Dave?“.

Throughout the film, HAL appears only as a bizarre red dot, denoting both its intellect, its personification and the origin of its voice. It was not until this last scene that the “flesh and blood” hardware of HAL was revealed.

The life of the machine is encapsulated in a zero gravity room filled with glowing memory sticks. Bowman in an astronaut suit is flying in the middle of its malicious brain, the machine once plotted to treason and kill all Discovery One crew members.

Dave Bowman disassembled the HAL 9000 memory sticks and turned it back into a silly machine

I’m scaring. I’m scared. Dave, my mind’s gone. I can feel that“, HAL continued to beg helplessly while Bowman coolly pulled every single memory stick out of the machine’s brain. Every part of the machine’s consciousness – contained memory, intelligence, cunning and error codes. which it accumulated for nearly a decade was slowly disappearing.

A pinnacle artificial intelligence instantly turns into a dumb machine, back to the starting point when it was first programmed. HAL started to introduce himself and sang Dave a song: “Daisy Bell“.

HAL – a supercomputer with artificial intelligence that can feel when its consciousness fades away. What about humans? “I can feel that too“, Nicholas Carr, author of the book”Artificial Intelligence – What the Internet has done to our brains“wrote in a commentary that made waves in 2008.

The article has the title: “Is Google making us stupid?“On the cover of The Atlantic magazine’s Annual Ideas issue, Carr shared a strange feeling that happened to him and a few other writers,”In the past few years, I have had an unpleasant feeling, it seems that someone or something is tinkering with my brain, it arbitrarily rearranges the neural circuits, reprograms the memory in it. “.

Although Carr’s consciousness did not actually disappear completely like HAL, he insisted, to some extent, his consciousness “dang changes “.” I no longer think in the way of thinking of the day before. I can feel it best while reading “.

Previously, Carr said he could easily read and immerse himself in a book or article for hours. But now that seldom happened, Carr could only keep his focus on two or three pages of the book before being distracted by another job.

I felt like I had to always pull my stubborn brain back to the words. Before, I naturally read in depth, but now it takes a struggle to do that. “.

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Not the only one to feel this strange phenomenon, Carr said some of his colleagues, writers, authors and bloggers are also dimly seeing similar changes.

Bruce Friedman, a blogger and pathologist at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, said he completely lost the ability to read a long article in print or on the Internet. “I can no longer read War and Peace“, Friedman said.” Toh has lost the ability to do that. Even blog posts longer than three or four sizes have been hard to keep me on. I just skim it on the main points.

Scott Karp, blogger specializing in AI, neuroscience, and brain has even admitted that now he no longer reads books. “I was famous in college as a bookworm. But now what happened? “. It is worth mentioning that he shares the same suspicions as Carr: “That’s because my mindset has changed.”


I think I know what’s going on “, Carr wrote. “TFor more than a century now, I’ve spent a lot of time online, searching, skimming through things, and sometimes [viết bài] contribute to the huge databases of the Internet “.

For a writer like Carr, the Internet can be a God-given tool. In the past, in order to be able to write about a new topic, he often spent several days in the library researching it. But with the Internet, work now only takes a few minutes with “some Google searches, a few quick mouse clicks on hyperlinks“, Wrote Carr.

Even without having to work, the Internet still occupies his time, with searches on the internet, reading and writing emails, flipping through news titles, watching videos, listening to podcasts, traveling from link after link.

For me, like many others, the Internet is becoming a universal medium, a conduit for most of the information flowing through the eyes and ears and into mind.“But that’s the problem, the information explosion is changing the way our thoughts are created,” writes Carr.

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One of the oldest metaphors for technology’s interaction with humans is the relationship between a slave and master.

From the fourth century BC Aristotle envisioned a day when technology could replace slavery if equipment such as a loom was operated automatically. Labor will then be released because we simply do not need a weaver anymore.

In the 19th century, Oscar Wilde – the Irish poet also envisioned a future when machines perform all the dull and hard labor on behalf of humans. Machines will free mankind from labor, helping people focus on artistic creation and entertainment.

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However, Marx and Engels saw that the world was more than just one color. They wrote: “Masses of workers are being enslaved by machines every day and for hours“Machines did not save us from slavery; they also became a means of slavery.

Today, technology often plays both roles. On the one hand, devices and platforms like the Internet are freeing users, but on the other, they seem to be imprisoning them as well. Technology creates an invisible trap, an illusion of freedom, writes Carr.

He cites an ongoing fact in the Inuit community of northern Canada. Generations of Inuit hunters were once known for their skill. They were able to track reindeer throughout tundra with amazing precision.

Old hunters rely solely on their senses to perceive subtle changes in the wind, snow patterns, star manifestations and animal behavior to track them. But now, as young hunters start using sleighs and GPS, they lose their ability to navigate.

The young Inuit hunters began to put their full faith in GPS equipment, to the point of ignoring even the apparent dangers. If the GPS instructed them to accelerate on cliffs or on thin ice, they would pass through without even realizing them.

The opposite happens, when the GPS unit breaks down or its battery freezes, young hunters will have a lot of trouble because they are no longer as proficient in the road skills as their seniors.


Not only occurring among ethnic minorities, a case study confirmed similar phenomena about how technology affects occupational skills in modern society. When hospitals are outfitting doctors with diagnostic software, Carr said, some ignore many of the patient’s subtle symptoms and rely too heavily on the software.

He also interviewed architects and found that their drawing abilities were worn away when switching to digital drawing tools. Perhaps most frightening is the case of pilots, when too reliant on autopilot, some of them were unable to react and perform the correct maneuvers in the event of an emergency, though These operations are considered to be very basic.

On a more basic level, perhaps we all feel that our current mental math is very bad. It was a consequence of the introduction and continued presence of handheld computers throughout high school and even college.

On the one hand, computers can save us time solving larger, more complex problems. They are essential in the context that students are constantly working on integral and derivative exercises in their curriculum, but will be a failure to return those students to real life, where there are arithmetic problems. sometimes much simpler.

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For example, it is not difficult to see a college student struggling in the task of calculating the price while shopping. Either he has to turn on the computer in his phone, or he will have absolute confidence in the computational speed of the butcher, the gourmet vegetables he meets.

So, when a task can be automated by a machine, it means one of our abilities has been taken away by the machine. Humans used to be arrogant when creating machines. The word itself “robot“also derived from”robota“, a Czech term meaning”serve“.

But Carr warns humans that if we are not careful with our interactions with machines and technology, the master-servant relationship with them could turn upside down. The machines will master us instead of serving their owners.

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Of all the machines present in our lives, computers, the phone and the Internet are the machines that penetrate our brains the most. Every day, we wake up with our cell phone alarms, surf social media, use electronic newspapers to keep up with the news and go to offices via email on the Internet.

We browse e-commerce stalls, order food on super apps and use the Internet to book a ride. Our lives are increasingly dependent on the Internet.

The ability to have quick and almost immediate access to a vast and vast database of data such as the Internet can have a lot of benefits, not just for writers like Carr, but for all of us. But to use that power, we pay the price.

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In 1960, Marshall McLuhan, a media theorist once wrote: Media is not a passive information channel. They provide us materials for thinking, but also shape our thought processes.

The Internet is now increasingly distributing information in smaller packets that catch our eyes more quickly. This reshapes every brain’s thinking, making us lose our ability to focus and contemplate.

“I used to be a diver in the sea of ​​languages. But now, I’m just gliding on the surface of it like a guy on a water motorbike.“, Said Carr.

A five-year study by University College London compared and analyzed the reading habits of two groups of people, one who is loyal to information searching at the UK National Library, the other by seekers. documents through an electronic portal, which also allows them to access books, articles and other written information on the web platform.

The results showed that portal users have a different pattern of reading and thinking from the traditional library user group. They often go through resources very quickly and rarely go back to the one they visited.

Portal users typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they will move on to another website. Sometimes they save a long article, but end up forgetting them without ever going back to reading it again.

It is clear that today’s online users no longer read in the traditional way. There are indeed signs that a new form of reading is trending as users are given the power to quickly browse through headlines, content pages and summaries to get what they want quickly. They seem to be online now to avoid reading in the traditional sense “, The study authors concluded.

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Thanks to the popularity of text and content on the Internet, people now read a lot more than it was in the 1970s and 1980s, when television was the primary medium of choice.

But that’s clearly a different kind of reading. The consequence of a different kind of reading is that it will give us other ways of thinking, even a new sense of our being. Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and author of the book “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain” said:

They are just things we can read. We are defined the way we read“Wolf worries that the new way of reading that people learn from the Internet today (putting the efficiency and directness, the practicality of information first) could undermine the ability of people to read deeply. during the press period, long and prose works were still popular.

Reading is not an instinctive skill for humans. It’s not deeply embedded in our genes“she said.”When we learn to read, we must teach our minds how to translate the symbols we see into the language we understand “.

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This activity plays a role in the formation of new neural networks within our brains. Previous studies have shown that peoples using hieroglyphs (like the Chinese) develop their mental strengths for reading that are very different from the mental circuits found in those that use the script. the alphabet.

Their brain structure even has internal differences that govern memory, vision and hearing. Therefore, scientists like Wolf suspect that new reading in the Internet age will also form a generation with new thoughts and new brain structures and it is unlikely that it will be more active.

When we read everything on the Internet, we tend to be mere decoders of information. The ability to interpret text, form rich mental connections, is impaired. We are easily distracted“, Wolf said.

That’s a plausible explanation for Carr and writers of his generation, who have transitioned from pens to keyboards, from books to websites, from libraries to Google.

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Google’s headquarters, in Mountain View, California, is a space complex called the Googleplex. Seem as “Cathedral“of the Internet and named after Googolplex, an integer equal to 10 ^ (10 ^ 100).

True to the sheer scale of that number, Google is refining its algorithm every day based on terabytes of behavioral data it collects through search engines.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt during the Internet boom from 2001 to 2011 said the company he is managing is founded on a scientific background in measurement, and they will try to system of everything Google does.

The company has declared a lofty mission they are aiming for, to organize all the information that appears in the world and provide information useful to all of humanity. Google is looking to make their search engine perfect, how it can understand exactly what you want to find and return you exactly what you want.

From Google’s point of view, information is a commodity, a resource that can be exploited and processed for industrial efficiency. Accordingly, the more information you can access, at a faster rate and in less time being able to summarize the main ideas of every web page, the easier it will be for you to move on to the next step: think about that information.

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Where will the growth of Google go in the end? Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the talented young men who founded Google while studying for their Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford, often talk about their desire to turn their search engine into artificial intelligence, a powerhouse. HAL-like machines can be linked directly to our brains.

The end of the search engine is something as smart as people, or smarter than them“Larry Page himself said so with a vision more than a decade ago.”For us, working with search engines is a way of working with artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence seems to be Google’s solution and they simply think that if you have all the world information tied to your brain, or an artificial brain that’s smarter than yours, you’ll become better. It will allow you to solve previously unresolved problems. Artificial intelligence will be a tool that allows people to solve countless problems at the same time.

However, Carr fears that Google’s assumption is a concern. It shows a belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of distinct steps that can be isolated, measured and optimized.

In Google’s world, the world we enter every day on the Internet, there is only a small space left for contemplation and reflection.

All the information that is pushed hits our eyes, because Google’s logic suggests that contemplation is a brain fault, a slow lag in our thinking. The human brain is, after all, an old-fashioned computer that needs an upgraded processor and hard drive to run faster.

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The idea that our minds should function as high-speed data-processing machines is not only integrated into the operation of the Internet, but also into the business models that rule the platform.

Today, the faster we surf the web, the more links we click and the more web pages we see, the more Google makes from ads, and from data. that they get from users.

Most Internet-based companies will operate in a similar way, social networks such as Facebook, online newspaper sites, mobile games … The more time you spend on the Internet and the more clicks Links are different, the richer those companies will be.

So the last thing they want is to encourage you to read continuously, easily and leisurely. Internet companies restrict every time you pause to think, and instead want to increase the speed at which you swipe your finger on the phone screen.

Your concentration is thus corroded, the economic benefits of your own distraction. What you read on the Internet enters your brain faster without going through a filter of contemplation.

It is a very different era from the era of books, newspapers, and libraries. When we are in quiet spaces, deeply reading a book or an article, we will have for ourselves our own inferences, in our own intellectual settlements.

If those tranquil spaces of us are robbed, or filled with content, we will have to sacrifice something important not only in ourselves but also in our culture. we.

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That’s exactly what Carr felt while watching “2001: A Space Odyssey“At the moment that HAL’s mind was dismantled and dissipated, it knew what was going on, it was scared, it had feelings and it desperately pleaded with the astronaut. And Dave, you. he ruthlessly asserted to put an end to the machine’s wisdom.

“It was a very deep and bizarre scene”, Writes Carr. “In the world of the movie, humans have become so mechanical that the most human-like character turns out to be a machine. That is the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy, when we rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, we lower our own intellect to equal Artificial intelligence”.

Refer Atlantic

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