Brevia: Getting dumb and dumber while software improves?


Geek PrideToday’s BBC News has an article about how ever improving software could damage our ability to think innovatively.

The example is given with a taxi driver: nowadays, people use satellite-navigation technology as the default way for going somewhere. Nicholas Carr, the author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, warns “we could actually lose the intellectual capacity to remember vast amounts of information – such as tricky routes through the capital city”.

Furthermore, Mr Carr declares that technology, in particular the web, has been found to have lasting effects on our brains, altering our ability to carry out certain tasks. A suggestion is to make tasks difficult which will keep our brain searching for and therefore, working. Which is on the opposite of what software developpers do: making the software more and more efficient somehow makes it easier and easier to use. Thus, given how much our every-day life is closely related to software and how difficult tasks are made easier to complete, we’ll lose our ability to learn. Mr Carr finishes the interview saying:

When you think about how we’re coming to depend on software for all sorts of intellectual chores, for finding information, for socialising – you need to start worrying that it’s not giving us, as individuals, enough room to act for ourselves.

My question is, naturally, how true is this claim? Are we really losing the ability to learn or is it just changing because our brains are just to be rewired in a different fashion?

P.S. A nice one from XKCD (CC-by):

Being smart