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Our Computers, Ourselves: Instant Information

OPB | Aug. 5, 2014 12:30 p.m. | Updated: Aug. 21, 2014 4:16 p.m.

Do you know the capital of Oman? Do you have a recipe for homemade sriracha? Do you remember the quadratic formula? Sure you do. But if not, you can google it all in much less time than it would take you to read this entire post. Information of almost every kind has never been more readily available. What has that done for us? What has it done to us?

In his book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr argues that having so much information at our fingertips hampers our ability to develop attentiveness, critical thinking skills, and contemplative thoughts. Carr, a science and technology journalist, says our persistent distracted states mean we’re constantly pushing out information instead of storing it in our long term memory, which is how we produce knowledge. 

And Carr is not alone. The comedian Pete Holmes says there are benefits to not knowing:

Do you agree?

In this first installment of Our Computers, Ourselves - a series of conversations about the personal reverberations of the digital revolution, we’re asking: what have we gained — and what have we lost — when so much information is at our fingertips? 

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