With the convenience of hav- ing all the Internet has to offer at our fingertips, it would seem that the working memory gets to take a break while Google does all the work.
At least that’s the concern posed by a recent Guardian column that claims people too often “outsource” their brain’s memory to Google when stuck on the meaning of a word or the name of a celebrity. It even goes as far to suggest that people forget to Google things that they meant to Google earlier.
However, the availability of technology doesn’t mean society will become more like something from a Ray Bradbury novel. Assuming the fruits of technology are more of a danger than a convenience also assumes people lack the responsibility or will to think for themselves.
If a legitimate fear should exist, it would be aimed particularly at college students, as the Pew Research Center found that this demographic is more likely than the general population that owns cellphones to use the Internet on such devices.
However, having a smartphone doesn’t mean it has to be surgically attached at the hand for constant reference to for- gotten information on Google or any other external memory. Being able to have technology such as cellphones at one’s dis- posal allows people to have a dictionary, encyclopedia, newspaper and tiny computer all at once, and that can’t be a bad thing unless, as the column suggests people would do with Google, they actually do ask Siri about everything.
After all, before it became common to hand one’s phone over to another person to get their contact information, peo- ple of course had other ways to reference important details, such as the somewhat obsolete and completely physical address book.
So, remembering little things such as that one movie Adam Sandler was in doesn’t have to be like a trivia game each time that or a similar thought pops into one’s head.
Relying on technology for ref- erence too much can be tricky, especially when technology can already affect how people learn. As reported by the Boston Globe, research from the journal Psychological Science has shown that students who try to remember a set of words on a computer file that is saved are also able to remember a second set of words on an unsaved file better than those who didn’t save the first file. This outcome suggests saving information helps people learn new things.
While it may be unsettling to know that hitting “save” actually impacts memorization, these results can still be read as a benefit that technology offers.
Having such direct access to most things one wants to know does seem like an intimidating feat that a little handheld device can do. However, rather than turn doubts or fears about technology into a horror story, the conveniences it provides should simply be telling of changing times with different ways to reference the things people are itching to know.
Isabelle Cavazos is a junior majoring in English and Spanish.