Are we overwhelmingly becoming dependent on the Internet? It is said that the internet shifts our cognitive functions from searching for information inside the mind, towards searching outside the mind. Some think, the Internet blocks our ability to look back. The way calculators have reduced the role of pure computation and simple arithmetic, some think, internet is reducing the role of our thought process. Some seem to believe that the Internet is necessary and useful, but not sufficient to change the mind.
Let us say, during one of our discussions a promising idea emerges. Someone among us, based on his quick internet search, says that the idea is promising, but not new. The idea has already been discovered by someone a few years ago, and it failed (for whatever reasons) at the implementation stage. Since there are few takers for failed ideas, the innovative idea gets dropped. The fate of the idea got sealed due to the failure of someone. A number of seemingly promising ideas get crushed this way, says Neal Stephenson. Often, the second crack at the idea works better, but it doesn’t get the requisite opportunity. Undoubtedly, the Internet has freed us from the burden of commuting to attain literacy, but it is also making our thinking more fragmented.
Information overload has begun to affect our reflection and introspection. Perhaps, slow and steady pace of literature search might allow a good idea to survive. Overburdened with so much real time information and driven by the next quarterly report, today’s manager finds little time for innovation. In this environment, the best a manager can do is to develop small improvements to the existing systems. “Any strategy that involves crossing a valley — accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance — will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure,”writes Stephenson.
When human intelligence is supplemented by computational intelligence, should we not expect the potential for innovation to become supplemented as well? We live in a world where information is cheap, but meaning is expensive, says George Dyson. Dyson sees no danger from the advanced machines. “The danger is that we are losing our intelligence if we rely on computers instead of our own minds. On a fundamental level, we have to ask ourselves: Do we need human intelligence? And what happens if we fail to exercise it?” is how Dyson looks at this problem. He says we need to protect our self-reliant individual intelligence to survive in a hostile environment. He cautions us not to surrender into dependency on other forms of intelligence.