A reader send me an email, because he wanted to know what I think about an image he prepared. The graphic has an explicit title "Internet ruining your brain" (by the way: the image can be found at the address http://www.forensicpsychology.net/internet-ruining-your-brain/). Now, what to say about this work?
I can agree with the informations (and the graphic is nice), but I absolutely disagree about the opinion expressed:
sure, the internet is reducing our use of memory. But this is not a bad thing.
In many countries, expecially countries with a culture based on academic knowledge like Italy, memory is often confused with intelligence. Many people think that remembering a large number of things means to be smart, like Pico della Mirandola (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pico_della_Mirandola). Really, intelligence is the ability to link different pieces of knowledge together to solve a problem. Obiously, you may need some informations, but you don't need to remeber them. You just need to know how to get them. For example, it's completely unuseful to remeber the Van Der Vaals equation of gasses: you just need to know that it can be found on Wikipedia, and then you can use it to calculate the pressure of a certain quantity of gas in a box.
The fact is that a person can study for the whole life: he/she will never be able to remeber or to know everything. But the internet can. Just wikipedia have a quantity of knowledge a hundred higher than what a single man can ever know. what does this mena, that the server hosting Wiki is smarter than a man? No. It just means that the server can remember a lot of things more, but it is not able to use them to solve a problem. Instead, a person who does not remember some equations, but knows how them work, is a smart person.
Internet is not ruining our memory skills, it is just changing the way we remember things. We don't remember concepts anymore, we remember where to find a concept. This means we need to store in our memory a lower number of things, because many concepts can be found in the same place. And this means, also, that we are practically able to work with a higher number of concepts than people who don't use internet. Because, in pratice, internet in just an extension of our brain.