Read any newspaper or magazine and you will notice the many flavors of the one big question that everyone is asking today. Or you can just stay on the page and read recent editions of Edge ...
Playwright Richard Foreman asks about the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self-evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the "instantly available". Is it a new self? Are we becoming Pancake People — spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.
Technology analyst Nicholas Carr wrote the most notable of many magazine and newspaper pieces asking "Is Google Making Us Stupid". Has the use of the Web made it impossible for us to read long pieces of writing?
Social software guru Clay Shirky notes that people are reading more than ever but the return of reading has not brought about the return of the cultural icons we'd been emptily praising all these years. "What's so great about War and Peace?, he wonders. Having lost its actual centrality some time ago, the literary world is now losing its normative hold on culture as well. Is the enormity of the historical shift away from literary culture now finally becoming clear?
Science historian George Dyson asks "what if the cost of machines that think is people who don't?" He wonders "will books end up back where they started, locked away in monasteries and read by a select few?".
Web 2.0 pioneer Tim O'Reilly, ponders if ideas themselves are the ultimate social software. Do they evolve via the conversations we have with each other, the artifacts we create, and the stories we tell to explain them?
Frank Schirrmacher, Feuilleton Editor and Co-Publisher of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, has noticed that we are apparently now in a situation where modern technology is changing the way people behave, people talk, people react, people think, and people remember. Are we turning into a new species —informavores? — he asks.
W. Daniel Hillis goes a step further by asking if the Internet will, in the long run, arrive at a much richer infrastructure, in which ideas can potentially evolve outside of human minds? In other words, can we change the way the Internet thinks?
What do you think?
The Edge Annual Question — 2010
HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK?
Editor & Publisher
If the Edge World Question Center is new to you, give yourself the gift of reading some truly thought provoking ideas you’ll find there. The name and basis of the Edge Foundation, which started in 1988, is:
To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.
BBC Radio described The Edge (back in 2005) as "Fantastically stimulating ... It's like the crack cocaine of the thinking world.... Once you start, you can't stop thinking about that question." My experience matches this and these questions are definitely cognitive crack for me! so consider yourself warned:
The Edge World Question Center is SERIOUSLY ADDICTIVE!
I'm increasingly intrigued and delighted by the apparent resurgence of the Q&A (Question & Answer) format. I've long been struck by the observation that great questions are more powerful than great answers, though I certainly want and need both. You'll find plenty of both here in The Edge and with this most recent question of "How is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?"
My friend Erik Duval, who’s recent Tweet prompted me to read more of these answers, liked Harold Rheingold's answer of "Attention is the Fundamental Literacy" and his recollection of many of the thoughts from Doug Englebart such as:
From the beginning, Engelbart emphasized that the hardware and software created at his Stanford Research Institute laboratory, from the mouse to the hyperlink to the word processor, were part of a system that included "humans, language, artifacts, methodology and training." Long before the Web came along, Engelbart was frustrated that so much progress had been made in the capabilities of the artifacts, but so little study had been devoted to advancing the language, methodology and training — the literacies that necessarily accompany the technical capabilities.
and the need we all have for fundamental skills such as;
Crap detection — Hemingway's name for what digital librarians call credibility assessment — is another essential literacy. If all schoolchildren could learn one skill before they go online for the first time, I think it should be the ability to find the answer to any question and the skills necessary to determine whether the answer is accurate or not.
Some of the one’s I’ve read, an ongoing process, which stood out to me included:
Kevin Kelly's answer "AN INTERMEDIA WITH 2 BILLION SCREENS PEERING INTO IT"
Uncertainty is a kind of liquidity. I think my thinking has become more liquid. It is less fixed, as text in a book might be, and more fluid, as say text in Wikipedia might be. My opinions shift more. My interests rise and fall more quickly. I am less interested in Truth, with a capital T, and more interested in truths, plural. I feel the subjective has an important role in assembling the objective from many data points. The incremental plodding progress of imperfect science seems the only way to know anything.
And Kevin's observation that:
Rather than begin a question or hunch by ruminating aimlessly in my mind, nourished only by my ignorance, I start doing things. I immediately, instantly go.
I go looking, searching, asking, questioning, reacting to data, leaping in, constructing notes, bookmarks, a trail, a start of making something mine. I don't wait. Don't have to wait. I act on ideas first now instead of thinking on them. For some folks, this is the worst of the Net — the loss of contemplation. Others feel that all this frothy activity is simply stupid busy work, or spinning of wheels, or illusionary action. I think to myself, compared to what?
Steward Brand's answer "One's Guild":
I couldn't function without them, and I suspect the same is true for nearly all effective people. By "them" I mean my closest intellectual collaborators. They are the major players in my social extended mind. How I think is shaped to a large degree by how they think.
Our association is looser than a team but closer than a cohort, and it's not a club or a workgroup or an elite. I'll call it a guild. Everyone in my guild runs their own operation, and none of us report to each other. All we do is keep close track of what each other is thinking and doing. Often we collaborate directly, but most of the time we don't. Everyone in my guild has their own guild---each of theirs largely different from mine. I'm probably not considered a member of some of them.
And Brian Eno noticing in his answer “The Authentic has Replaced the Reproducible” that:
I notice that everything the Net displaces reappears somewhere else in a modified form. For example, musicians used to tour to promote their records, but, since records stopped making much money due to illegal downloads, they now make records to promote their tours.
I notice that, as the Net provides free or cheap versions of things, 'the authentic experience' — the singular experience enjoyed without mediation — becomes more valuable. I notice that more attention is given by creators to the aspects of their work that can't be duplicated. The 'authentic' has replaced the reproducible.
I notice that almost all of us haven't thought about the chaos that would ensue if the Net collapsed.
I notice that my daily life has been changed more by my mobile phone than by the Internet.
As for my answer to this question of “How is the internet changing the way you think?”, if I had to condense it down to a single phrase or title, I’d say I wander more, I ponder more, I wonder more.
I don’t find that the net is changing the WAY I think, that is still as wonderfully weirdly Wayne as ever, however it is absolutely changing the quantity of WHAT I'm thinking about, and hopefully some of the quality. While there are many dimensions to this increased quantity of thinking, most specifically and powerfully for me, is that the internet supercharges my curiosity and exponentially increases my serendipity factor; the probability that I’m going unexpectedly discover and create completely new (to me) ideas, ways of thinking and perspectives. And this increase is exponential because as I pursue these serendipitous discoveries they lead me to more things I become serendipitously curious about and pursue.
I embrace this change. I purposefully let myself go. I wander more, both literally with my sailing around the world, which the internet has significantly enabled, and I figuratively wander more as I pursue these new questions and paths. I wonder more in that I'm continuously led to ask new questions, to wonder "What if?" and "Why not" and I ponder more as I reflect more deeply on possible answers to these questions. For me then, this is simply an exponentially increased form of learning, a way of living and I love it!
How is the internet changing the way I think? I wander more, I ponder more, I wonder more.
What’s YOUR answer? How is the internet changing the way YOU think?