I Don’t Know – Google It

Google Memory

Nowadays, thats typically the response I hear when I ask someone a question. Why is that? Neuroscientist Ian Robertson recently polled 3,000 people and discovered younger ones were less able than their elders to recall standard personal information. 87% of his respondents over age 50 couldn’t recite a relatives birth date, while less than 40 percent of those under 30 could do so. When Ian asked those under 30 their own phone number, at least one third of them had to take out their handset to remember.

The moral of the story here is that, humans are reaching a point where they no longer need to remember information but rather, machines are the ones who are storing the information that can be retrieved within a few keystrokes. I know I have asked a number of people some interesting questions and instead of providing what they thought was the answer, they merely tell me to Google it. Does this happen to you as well? Leo Laporte likes to coin this term as (GAM) or Google Assisted Memory. As long as he can remember how to type into Google, he will seemingly never forget anything.

Although typing into Google and receiving those results is a very fast way of obtaining information, sometimes I just want to hear the answer from a human rather than a search engine.

I’d be very interested to hear your feedback regarding this subject as I think it is fascinating. In retrospect, it sounds like the beginning of the cyborg era, wouldn’t you say?

6 thoughts on “I Don’t Know – Google It

  1. Funny you should mention this, because I was thinking about the very same thing a few days ago.

    I’m no scientist (the Computer Science degree I have seems pretty useless), but here are my two cent’s worth:

    It seems to me that human memory was doomed with the invention of papyrus, paper thereafter and electronic storage more recently. The moment we had a convenient medium to pass information down the generations, as well as communicating with each other, there was an increasing lack of need for memorising everything.

    One would argue that writing down unimportant facts simply releases memory space and allows us to use our memory for more important things. Since we do have a limited memory capacity.

    In theory perhaps. But in practice we probably only get more and more lazy because of this and end up relying on technology too much.

    You raised an interesting point though. It probably won’t be long until we can access memory modules directly with our minds. It Sci-Fi enough, but we already have brain controlled user interfaces, so added memory isn’t too far into the horizon.

    Google is a very interesting concept. Even as early as 7 or 8 years ago, I remember that the best thing around was Microsoft Encarta. I used that for countless projects in school. And before that, it was strenuous searching through library books. To think that we’re still only at the beginning of the information age is simply amazing.

    Have these technologies really benefited us though? No doubt, since information is easier to retrieve and share than ever. But have they made the human race become more lazy in the process? What effects will this have on future generations?

    It’s an interesting topic worth reading more about. Thanks for instigating Jeffro!

  2. So I remember reading this in Wired magazine and thinking that people that can’t remember phone numbers and birthdays have problems. About the article–I wanted to know how close the relative was that they were asking when their birthday was–if its a cousin…who cares? If its your mom–yeah its pretty bad if you don’t know right off the top of your head. I think its really bad if you don’t know your own phone number as well. Thats my opinion though, I’ve always have had numbers and days and schedules memorized so I’ve never worried about it–and I didn’t know it was that bad O_O

  3. @Mike First off Mike, thanks for continuing the conversation with your two cents. What you mentioned in regards to writing things down on paper to free up human memory for more important things was also mentioned in the article I read but as you stated, there is a point where we become reliant on the technology which is a bad thing.

    Now I may have gone a tad bit Sci-Fi there with the cyborg comment, but what I am thinking is that, once Internet access becomes wireless and ubiquitous across most of the world, we’ll be able to use devices to tap right into the world wide web of information. So presumably, we would be able to access this major source of information from anywhere at anytime without the need of implants.

    If you combine laziness and the unwillingness to learn, do you think that as a whole, the population could tip the scale and end up as nothing but a bunch of drones?

    @Sierra To be honest, Wired magazine is what inspired this post via the same article you read. Reading this article made a light bulb go off in my head as it’s a topic I have personally been dealing with for some time now.

    Sometimes I can’t remember my phone number, other times I can. I could never recite my social security number until I needed to use it as a unique identifier and now I know it by heart due to repetition. As far as birthdays go, the only two birthdays I am aware of is my own and my girlfriends. I don’t know anyone else’s birthdays.

    The main problem I am dealing with is information retention. I can read an article but later in the day when I try to tell someone about what I read, I have a hard time coming up with the information.

    By the way, Wired Magazine is awesome and I think I’ll pick up a 2 year subscription for $20.00

  4. lol I was at work when I read the Wired article and I asked my co-worker if she knew her own phone number–she (age 16) had no idea what it was. I was just sorta freaked out by it. My problem is–I can remember a lot of things, memorize things, yet I suck at spelling and grammar….makes no sense! Thank goodness for spell check! Those little squiggle lines are my best friends.

  5. Thats another thing. I don’t even bother trying to spell the word correctly anymore. I just try to get as close as possible and I let the spell checker tell me what it should of been. It looks like you and I are in the same boat in that regard.

  6. @Sierra: My guess is that different parts of your brain, or sections of your memory, are good at memorizing different things. Hence why some people are visual, while others are verbal or kinesthetic. You might be able to memorize locations or people’s faces, but can’t recite a poem if your life depended on it. Or vice versa.

    @Jeffro: Not to stereotype, but the fact that Sierra’s friend is 16 is quite interesting. While I’m only 22, my childhood was spent without Google or many gadgets that assisted my memory. I worked math problems on paper and in my head, and memorized events and birthdays because I didn’t have a phone or diary to write them in.

    Newer generations (Y gen onwards), are very accustomed to relying heavily on technology for everyday tasks, and as a consequence of technology, will probably do more so in the future.

    The problem is this:

    Human beings by nature tend to be quite lazy. Take the example of a park which has two entrances, diagonally opposite of each other. 99% of people no doubt take the shortest possible route across, namely a straight line from the entrance to the exit. There would be few deviations, and they’re usually for a reason.

    (On another note, you could go on to argue that this phenomenon explains why people idolize someone like Paris Hilton.)

    Now, all technology does sometimes is to enable us to be as ‘efficient’ as possible… in other words, as lazy as possible. Taking the easiest way out, which in this case is to memorize as least as we need too, since we ‘think’ we have no need for it.

    In answer to Jeffro’s question, I think people are already becoming drones. You only need to look at fashion, glorifying celebrities or listening to nothing but R&B to realize that people copy each other, even if the thing they copy has no real value.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the average IQ of the world’s population dropped as we evolved because of a number of factors. The lack of using our memory being one of them.

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