Lazier maybe, but not dumber.

In the Op-Ed section of today’s New York Times, Edward Tenner asks:

Are search engines making today’s students dumber?

The premise of his piece is that Google (and other search engines presumably) make it so easy to find information that people disregard the quality of the information, but assuming they have an answer they dig no deeper. And if this is acceptable by their school for whatever they are working on, then is it the fault of the search engine?

I believe that this would make them lazy, but I can’t see how it makes them dumber. Even if the information is completely incorrect, that just makes them misinformed.

Mr. Tenner suggests that this may be partially the fault of the content owners:

More owners of free high-quality content should learn the tradecraft of tweaking their sites to improve search engine rankings.

And he attributes some blame to Google:

And Google can do more to educate users about the power — and frequent advisability — of its advanced search options.

Suddenly we are depending on free content to educate us. Wouldn’t we prefer to be educated by high quality content? Google wants to make that available to us, but book publishers aren’t interested in helping.So Google can only deliver what it has access to. And even with incredible algorithms, if can still only make a best guess of what is most relevant.

And blaming the tool because people don’t use it correctly is just silly. If they are motivated to do so people will make more use of the tool. It isn’t Google’s fault if they don’t. I use the advanced features of Google every day because I want to find more in depth information.

Yesterday I was at the library, using their online card catalog to help him find books for a project. We could have stopped looking after we found the first book. But he wanted more in-depth information so we searched further, and into related areas. If I stopped at the first match I found in the card catalog, does that make me dumber?

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