Sometimes I wonder if technology has made us smarter or dumber. I’m not sure if it’s an easily answered question because there are so many different facets of technology and ways that it highlights our intelligence or lack thereof. What I’m particularly thinking about is finding answers to questions or more information about a topic.

In general, I feel like I’m a person who wonders about a lot of different things. Such as today, when L. and I stopped at Coldstone for a little bit of ice cream to beat the heat. As I enjoyed my chocolate ice cream, I wondered aloud who had discovered how to turn cacao beans into chocolate, specifically bar chocolate. Now L., who is like a walking encyclopedia, mused that it must have stemmed from drinking chocolate as that is something people had been using chocolate for for ages. I made a mental note to look that up on the internet when I got home.

Many of my wonderings go something like that, specifically if I’m wondering about something L. has a particular background of interest in. My favorite of these exchanges occurred when I was watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and had a questions regarding electrical currents in water and I asked L. His response began with “Well, in the original French text…” I love that man so much.

But back to my wondering about chocolate. We came home from lunch and I pulled up Chocolate on Wikipedia. Now, I love that I can get a plain old article on chocolate as well as a more specific article on the history of chocolate. I’m thrilled to know that bar chocolate, or at least chocolate as a hard candy substance was a product of the industrial revolution.

To me, it is so satisfying to know whatever I want to know by just clicking a few buttons. I have all the facts and information I want by just opening up a Google window. If I want to learn to do something, I just look up how to do it. And please don’t beat me up about using Wikipedia. While I know it’s a flawed tool, I have less qualms about using it given that Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture and a man who actually authored encyclopedia articles, gave Wikipedia an okay on quality.

However, my quandary about technology making us dumber is whether I am perhaps too dependent on just Googling it. It’s so easy to look out into the world and pull in information from the vast cyberspace that I have to wonder if I’m just settling for easy answers for thousands of questions. I wonder if I’m only scratching at the surface of thousands of different thoughts. I guess it’s sort of like Trival Pursuit – I’m picking up a little fact about something, but what do I really know?

And to be honest, there’s a whole phenomenon going on with Yahoo answers that completely convinces me technology has made us truly dumb. People sometimes use Yahoo answers for really basic questions or strange advice. Such as one that is up right now: “My mom won’t believe my wrist is broken. What do I do?” I feel like that aspect of using the internet to find out more information only comes back to people expect others to solve their problems. Yahoo’s whole meritocracy system (You get points for answering questions) only encourages people to give really pointless answers. And don’t even get me started on spelling and grammar. I’m not the grammar queen by any means but wow, some of the wordage employed over at Yahoo answers makes me want to punch myself.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Does the internet make us smarter or stupider. Thoughts?

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