6 October 2016
Back in the pre-internet days, if someone asked you a tricky question, you had a couple of options – see if anyone you knew had the answer, pull out an encyclopedia or head to the library to conduct some research. Whichever one you opted for, it was certainly more complicated and more time-consuming than what you’d do today: Google it.
Thanks to technology – and the internet in particular – we no longer need to depend on our sometimes unreliable memories for random facts and pieces of information.
Think about it: when was the last time you bothered to memorise a phone number? And what’s the point in learning the spelling of that long, complicated word when auto-correct will pick it up for you?
Wth all the knowledge we could ever need at our fingertips, are we outsourcing our memory to the internet?
The new trend of relying on the internet is what researchers call “cognitive offloading”. It has become so easy to just look something up online than trying to remember certain things, however easy.
Indeed, opinion seems divided as to whether what the internet is doing to the human brain is a positive or negative development.
Some argue that by removing the need for rote learning – a system under which we were forced to memorise dates, names and facts – the internet has helped free up cognitive resources for other more important things.
People on the other side of the divide believe that by relying on the internet as an external hard drive for our memory, we are losing the ability to transfer the facts we hear and read on a daily basis from our working memory to our long-term one.