This debate will never get resolved: people will continue arguing over the benefits vs. disadvantages of the Internet. Some people say that all the information available on the Internet will obviously make us smarter, but others say that all this information actually makes us dumber. You might wonder how this can be possible. After all, if all the answers are out there waiting on the Internet, what’s the problem? Let me explain.
This instantaneous accessibility of knowledge (whether it’s of high quality or not is another story) is actually making our brains dumber, according to some scientists. Information on any topic, “life hacks,” how-to’s, strategies, and methodologies for doing just about everything abound. You don’t have to ask yourself any questions, just type that question into the search tool. This easy access to information, say some scientists, allows the brain to just sit back and wait for the information, rather than actively working on figuring out how to solve problems itself.
Of course, there are times when you just need an answer, and you need it fast. The Internet proves to be an unfailing solution-provider in such cases. But in the long term having access to all this information and answers may make our brains rusty, lazy, and uncritical. We get addicted to quick answers, ready-made solutions, and the easy way out. We’ve grown so accustomed to having instant access to the Internet’s electric brain that we forget that our own physical brains are for thinking and not just receiving information.
The problem ready-made knowledge causes
When the information we receive is given to us without our having to critically think about it or come up with an answer ourselves, this is a low-quality learning context. Unless the learning environment and the procedure engage the brain, we’re more likely to soon forget the answer or solution to a problem. When the brain is actively and fully engaged with coming up with its own version of an answer this creates a link to the information in long-term memory. By contrast, when the brain is freely given all the answers without any effort required, those answers tend to be more easily forgotten, as there is less of a link.
Withholding easy answers and prompting the brain to come up with those answers by itself is an efficient way to make our lazy brains better learners. The premise of this idea is that when we try to figure out an answer, even if we fail in the end, the process of trying to come up with the solution will still likely generate a new way of looking at the situation, and get the brain working better.
Awakening the brain and challenging yourself to find an answer makes you smarter and it improves your memory. What we actively come up with is more likely to be remembered than the passive knowledge we’ve acquired by watching a YouTube tutorial.
Each person has a different learning style and it might even be the case that certain people learn efficiently when they receive passive knowledge. However, for the great majority of humans, actively engaging the brain in the problem-solving process promotes learning and makes us a bit smarter.