Tech Talk: Are We Googling Too Much?


Spending Christmas around kids that just got a “home assistant” as a present (Alexa, Siri, Cortana etc.) and then relentlessly kept asking it any question they could think of got me thinking about how I find and take in information.

I Google A LOT of things on any given day, it always gives me a better feeling letting go of something if I found the answer even if it wasn’t anything even remotely important. Not to mention all the things I Google at work. I think a lot of IT people also are like me where I even Google things I’m sure of just to make sure I was really sure…

However, what I’m wondering is, does all the googling I do make me smarter or would I actually be better off if information wasn’t so accessible for me and I wouldn’t be able to get ahold of any answer at any time of day, would struggling to find answers make me retain more information in the end?

(Howard) #2

Access to a subset of all of humanity’s knowledge with a few clicks or a verbal command has incredible advantages whether it’s for factual correctness and to check accuracy, look up a new word meaning, self-improvement, or even “how to do it” like YouTube tutorials. Does all this Googling make you smarter" Probably. At the very least, it increases your possibilities of winning Jeopardy:) I think finding how to use the technology to save and not waste time will become an acquired set of skills that we will learn how to use better over time. Should you have an Alexa or Google agent create a reminder for you to look up the answer in your free time or do you require the answer immediately? That is the promise of agent/assistant technology. It needs to seamlessly let us achieve our goals, reduce stress, and let us benefit from its agent technology behind the scenes. Of course, the curious can spend lots of time going down rabbit holes if your so inclined to follow one answer which leads to another:)

(Todd) #3

I find that many people do not spend any additional brain activity to memorize something they can readily ‘Google’.

Typically these little snippets of information are ingested and just as quickly digested. Besides, by utilizing assistants who tell you the answer versus reading it, generally will decrease retention time.

Some people have a knack to remember vast quantities of facts learned via googling, but I think for most, this is not the case…especially with the verbal assistants.

My two shiny coppers! :slight_smile:

(Howard) #4

Todd your spot on about verbal/audio. The human brain has 5 senses to encode information. Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste, and Touch: Surprisingly. smell is one of the most powerful for encoding and retaining information while audio isn’t the best. Sometimes smells will bring back a host of other memories including related visual and audio memory. For example. I had a keepsake from my grandmother who passed away in 2000. It retained the smell of her apartment which was a mix of special floral scents. When recalling that smell I could visualize the apartment and a flood of events. We’re still learning about how our brain is wired. Very exciting. I bet many of you can relate similar stories. When Smellexa comes along we’ll be able to digest and retain a lot more information:)

(Howard) #5

Speaking of Smellexa. This scent machine works with Alexa because even smells are smart - CNET

(Amy Blinn) #6

There have been studies done in recent years on this exact topic, and the results were what you’d expect: in general, people tend to retain less information in their long-term memory if they know it is readily available (Googling). This is most dramatically seen in rural cultures that lack modern conveniences. There are still a few remote tribes that exist with verbal histories rather than writing, and their capacity for memorization is astounding compared to an average person from the first world.

I think we all agree that having so much information readily available is great, but it takes more effort to remember that information. As more generations grow up with the internet, Google, Alexa, et. al, it will be interesting to see how memory changes.