The internet is reshaping our minds. Reconfiguring might be a better word. A recent study shows that we don't learn things the way we once did. We don't accumulate knowledge as our ancestors did.
We don't have to commit information to memory as in the past. The web functions as a replacement for memory. If we need a fact we can use a search engine. Google or Yahoo or Bing will pull it up, we can read it, use it and discard it.
There's a real frailty attached to this sort of information sourcing. It's not the forgetting, it's the not remembering. What does it mean to read something but not to commit it to memory? We have outsourced part of our memory function to cyberspace. How much of our memory function are we abandoning? What parts are we losing, what parts are retained?
Surely it's retained memory that provides the context we need to make sense of daily experiences. We encounter many situations and things of which we already have some knowledge or familiarity. The less we know, the more mysterious or foreign the subject may seem, the more poorly we may interact with it. Our minds are with us all the time, our computers usually aren't. Our minds access knowledge instantly, automatically, often effortlessly. Our computers require protocols, keywords, reading and typing and even then often don't yield what we want on the first or even second attempt.
I am reminded of Tim Flannery's observation in Here on Earth that we're becoming a species of idiots. We're becoming increasingly expert at doing one or two things and increasingly incompetent at doing the great many things needed even for life itself. As idiots we become increasingly reliant on systems and others to do the myriad things we cannot do for ourselves.
As we lose the art of knowing stuff surely that can only hasten the onset of Flannery's world of high-functioning idiots. How can the robots not take over?