Does the Internet Make you Stupid?

My Bookbuzz colleague Alan Jordan has done a lot of work with executives on the way they think and make decisions. The key book is Kahneman's "Thinking fast and slow", but we have uses other books such as “This will make you smarter” which we reviewed on Newstalk recently.

The context

Does the Internet Make you Stupid?

With clients we have also covered and solved issues and problems around the impact of the internet on information, decision making, social media and customer behaviour. From "The shallows" to "From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg" and from "Overconnected" to "Future minds" and lately two, what are probably fringe books "Too big to know" and "Present shock". Lets not forget “Future bubble”

It is not overload, it is filter failure

Americans consumed about 3.6 zettabytes of information in 2008. The difference between 0.3 and 3.6 zettabytes is ten times the total number of grains of sand on the earth. It’s no longer information overload. That is a given. It’s filter failure


There is chaos on the information super highway, we can't see the woods from the trees, facts do not exist any more (every fact has an anti-fact on the web), we create our own belief bubbles, in ongoing fight or flight mode, our brains are mush and we are now driven by what the smart phone tells us.


Combine that with a huge overestimation of who or what you think make the decisions, as distinct from your monkey, lizard, elephant, underbelly and/or sub-conscience and you have a cocktail for disaster. Or do you?

The contrast

He talks about how technology makes us smarter and better. The perfect anti book and contrast to the books I mentioned.

Smarter, better

Technology and the internet are not an either/or concepts. It helps us to be smarter (augmented intelligence, where we use the internet as a tool). It gives eternal memory, where we can recall anything and learn form it. We are creating cognitive diversity where we can test, discuss and distribute our thinking.  Allowing us to become conversational thinkers (the way Socrates wanted it). With ALL knowledge at our fingertips. And being able to tap into the collective wisdom of the people we are connected with. Being ambient aware.

Different types of literacy

Technology has also made us more literate (we are writing and reading more than ever with texts, e-mails, tweets, etc.), but is also creating different type of literacy in video, image, data and soon 3D printing. Making the ways to express ourselves richer.

Take a digital Sabbath

If you put it that way, it is difficult to argue. He does make reference to the FOMO syndrome (Fear Of Missing Out), constant distraction and recency effects and the need to be mindful and aware of how you think. Which brings us back to Kahneman. His advice. Take digital Sabbaths. Step out of the stream on a regular basis and meditate.

Watson, the Jeopardy super computer

He ends with Watson, the super computer that can play Jeopardy. Near AI. They are now applying it to help doctors do diagnoses bases on the answers the patient gives. In 5 years you will have Watson on your phone.

Your own Watson

Whom will be your digital, ambient, super smart, digital assistant who can help you with memory, knowledge, thinking and a lot more. And what will happen then? That is how Clive Thompson ends the book. How should you respond when you get powerful new tools for finding answers? Think of harder problems to solve.

The future is bright.

The application

Why is this relevant to business? 

Watson can and will also advice on best buy, best price, best customer feedback. If it makes people better, it will make businesses better. In fact all rules apply. Think data, improvement, innovation, access to knowledge and a double edge sword. If you don’t, your competitor will.



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