What Would the World be like Without the Internet?
Today, it is almost impossible to imagine how life was say two centuries ago, that is, before the discovery on the internet. We have come to rely so much on the internet today that life without the same is largely unimaginable. Over time, analysts, commentators and experts alike have written a wide range of articles on the advancement, nature, future as well as pro and cons of the internet. One of those whose articles have triggered widespread debate is Nicholas G. Carr who in his article Is Google making us stupid: What the internet is doing in our brains was largely critical of the effects of the internet on cognition.
With a society that is increasingly becoming bent on technology, there are a number of negative consequences of this trend that have continued to worry analysts and commentators alike. To further appreciate the effect of the interned on us, there is a great need to speculate on just how the world would look like without the internet.
What would the word be without the internet?
Even before Carr wrote his article, there have been concerns over the effects the internet as well as the electronic media in regard to literary reading and other cognitive functions. Further, the internet is to blame for the sustained deterioration on the literary culture (Smith, 112). As Carr puts it, individuals today read much more text than it was the case here decades ago, say in the 80s and 70s. Back then, the television constituted the chief choice medium but today the sheer amount of text we access from the internet in addition to dozens of texts we receive on our cell phones essentially means we read more. But according to Carr, this is a different kind of reading all together. Behind this very reading is another very different thinking process from what was the case in the late 70s or even earlier.
It is hence quite in order to note that in a world without the internet, cognition would not be on the downward trajectory as is the case currently. Cognition is essentially taken to represent the thought process. Today, with the use of the internet, people do not have to engage their minds with the strenuous task of systematically seeking facts through several texts, seeking to make comparisons of the same as well as relations. With the internet, you just have to type a prompt on a browser page and the information presented is amazing. This essentially compromises the thought process, what we are referring to as cognition, in such a way that there are no comparisons as such made so as to adapt the answer being sought to its specific context.
In Carrs view therefore, in a world without the internet, people would be more compelled to read deeply as they use printed books as in his own opinion, the internet promotes shallow reading. It is however important to note that so far, Carrs views have not been substantiated by any studies i.e. neurological or psychological studies.
Further based on the arguments presented in Carrs article, in addition to being what we read, we also happen to be how we read. It therefore follows that in a world without the internet, people would possess an enhanced ability to interpret text and come up with entrenched connections that are brought about by reading deeply and in the absence of any interruption whatsoever. Today, our ability to read a text deeply is being eroded by the sense of immediacy as well as efficiency that the internet entrenches in us. This is because online reading makes us more of information decoders.
It can also be said that in a world without the internet, the concentration levels of individuals would also tend to be quite high. People would be able to concentrate on their at hand tasks rather than skim through work. Indeed, Carrs article bases its argument on studies carried out in 2008 where it was found out that the human brain can indeed be rewired. This essentially means that constant use of the internet diminishes the minds ability to concentrate while executing other duties. If this is the case, then it follows that most of the accidents that happen on a day to day basis as a result of concentration are, to a certain percentage, informed by long periods spend by individuals to the internet. Indeed according to Bodden, about 7% of accidents as well as errors in the office setting are attributed low concentration levels (64).
If Carrs argument that spending long periods of time on the internet contributes to lack of concentration and if the percentage of errors (in the office setting) brought out by lack of concentration hold true, then the world would be better without the internet as far as the reduction of accidents brought about by lack of concentration are concerned. It is important to note that the decreased concentration as a result of lengthy periods in the internet can indeed be a main contributor of other accidents in other settings apart from the office setting i.e. in our roads etc. Hence without the internet, it is possible for one to speculate that accidents (in the larger context) would be brought down.
Further, in a world without the internet, the capacity of an individual to contemplate may in one way or the other be enhanced. According to Carr, the ability of individuals to contemplate is diminished by a large extent essentially because computer algorithms end up overburdening the brain of the internet user. It is also important to note that workers in the organizational setting would not end up being mere automatons as is the case at the moment.
For all intents and purposes, a world without internet would not be so un-livable after all as we have come to believe due to our over reliance on the internet. Though there are quite a number of advantages that accrue as a result of internet use, as John Battelle Contends whilst critiquing Carrs article, the negative effects of internet overuse are also worth a mention
In conclusion, it is important to not that though the internet continues to be beneficial as far as facilitating the transfer of information is concerned, the overuse of the same continues to draw attention from experts and analysts who point out towards the adverse effects of the same. It can also be noted that Carrs sentiments are not in isolation and though his article has been criticized on several fronts, he manages to stir thought as well as open our minds to the other side of the internet. Hence contrary to popular belief, perhaps a world without the internet wouldn’t be that bad after all.
Bodden, Valerie. Internet. The Creative Company, 2008.
Smith, Smith. Internet: an overview of key technology policy issues affecting its use and growth. Nova Publishers, 2002.
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