Internet and Intelligence

After reading the article write an essay in which you argue whether or not you think the internet is making us “dumber.” Why do you believe this, or why not? Support your point with original and compelling arguments that go beyond those suggested in this article. Defend your position using compelling counterarguments. Your essay should show an understanding of this article, and your own research without simply repeating it (unless quoting), and you should incorporate specific details from your own experience and knowledge into your response. The specific requirements for this essay are as follows:? 4 pages minimum.•? MLA format.? Summarize the main idea of the article.? At least 3 additional sources not including this article.? Write a thesis as the last sentence of your introduction in which you take a stance on the issue (do you think that the internet is making us less intelligent?).? Include at least 3 quotes from your own research, this article, or the readings we have done so far for this progression.? Include a counterargument.
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Internet and Intelligence
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Adapted from: “The Internet Makes Us Stupid and Here’s Why” by Kabir Sehgal
It rewires your brain.
I hate to admit it. But reading this column will make you stupider. No, it’s not that what I have to say is
particularly obtuse. It’s [if] you’re reading this piece online, where you are presented a dizzying amount
of options: click here, watch this, share that. These may seem like trivial decisions, but as the amount of
online content explodes, our brains have consequently learned how to read differently (with constant
distractions), which has reshaped how we learn. While the Internet gives us access to more information
than before, paradoxically, we are becoming dimmer and more superficial as a people.
In the book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer
Prize, Nicholas Carr makes the case that technology is inducing an intellectual decay in our brains. It’s a
provocative and even counterintuitive claim but one that he backs up with ample findings from
neuroscience.
In one UCLA study conducted in 2008, the brains of 24 people were scanned while they conducted
Google searches. The researchers found that those who had more experience with Google had heightened
activity in more parts of the brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of your brain that is
the seat of consciousness, which you use to make decisions. You might think this is beneficial: “The good
news here is that Web surfing, because it engages so many brain functions, may help keep older people’s
minds sharp,” Carr writes.
But there is a downside. When you encounter hyperlinked text, your brain asks the question: “To click or
not to click.” Because you are constantly being interrupted to make these decisions, you rarely “get lost”
in the text and consequently the information infrequently becomes deep knowledge. Or as Carr puts it,
“The redirection of our mental resources, from reading words to making judgments, may be imperceptible
– our brains are quick – but it’s been shown to impede comprehension and retention, particularly when
repeated frequently.” Not surprisingly, Internet usage rewires our brain. As part of the UCLA study, those
with little Googling experience were instructed to use the Internet for one hour per day. After five days,
their brains were rescanned, and sure enough, there was heightened activity in the prefrontal cortexes.
Even a little Internet usage changes the neural pathways of your brain.
When you read a book, you comprehend more. According to a study in the Journal of Digital Information,
those who read documents with hypertext didn’t retain as much information as those who read text
without links. Indeed, book reading is under stimulating. That is a good thing because your brain can
transfer this information from your “working memory” to “long-term memory.” Neuroscientists have
discovered that long-term memory isn’t just where you store random facts, but “schemas” that help you
organize thoughts and concepts. But there is only so much you can transfer into your long-term memory
at once, what scientists call the “cognitive load.”
When you read a book, you take a thimble of information from your working memory and fill your
bathtub of long-term memory, to use Carr’s thought experiment. Yet when you read on the Internet,
“What we do transfer is a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from
one source,” he writes. Our brains don’t assimilate the information in a rich and meaningful way, creating
fewer connections between our other memories. Carr puts it bluntly: “We become mindless consumers of
data.”
The Internet has indeed changed how we read and think. But does that really matter? You can just Google
for facts and figures. But the richness of human intelligence is predicated on summoning our long-term
memory. Creativity requires engaging our long-term faculties, in order to create new neural pathways and
associations. By reading incessantly on the Internet, we scatter our minds, lessen our focus, and diminish
our aptitude.
After reading the article write an essay in which you argue whether or not you think the internet is
making us “dumber.” Why do you believe this, or why not? Support your point with original and
compelling arguments that go beyond those suggested in this article. Defend your position using
compelling counterarguments. Your essay should show an understanding of this article, and your
own research without simply repeating it (unless quoting), and you should incorporate specific
details from your own experience and knowledge into your response. The specific requirements for
this essay are as follows:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
4 pages minimum.
MLA format.
Summarize the main idea of the article.
At least 3 additional sources not including this article.
Write a thesis as the last sentence of your introduction in which you take a stance on the
issue (do you think that the internet is making us less intelligent?).
Include at least 3 quotes from your own research, this article, or the readings we have done
so far for this progression.
Include a counterargument.

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