does WiFi make us smarter?

Only 20 years ago were we first able to “Google.”

Two years later came the iconic Nokia 3310, one of the most successful mobile phones, even developing a bit of a cult status of its own, with features rare for the time.

Soon after came Wikipedia and Skype.

2004 then brought us Facebook and Flickr.

And by 2005, 16% of the world’s population now had internet access. That number would almost double five years later.

Now in 2018, with the Digital Revolution of the Information Age fast upon us — or recently past, pending varied observation — look at us. What has happened? What has happened to us?

We have all this information at our fingertips. We can find out pretty much anything we want with the touch of a few buttons, the opening of an app, or the slide of some inanimate bar. Information is better, faster, and more.

As University of Tennessee law professor, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, said years ago as the age evolved and internet expanded:

“I’m writing this in a bar right now, and I have most of human knowledge at my fingertips. Okay, it’s not really a bar. It’s a campus pizza place, albeit one with 27 kinds of beer on tap, a nice patio and — most importantly — a free 802.11b ‘Wi-Fi’ wireless Internet hookup. With that, and Google, there’s not much that I can’t find out. If I’m curious about the Hephthalite huns or the rocket equation or how much money Fritz Hollings has gotten from the entertainment industry, I can have it in less time than it takes the barmaid to draw me a beer.”

So the logical question is whether this better, faster, more information is making us smarter? Is that what’s happening to us?…

… or not?

As Reynolds poignantly pointed out this week in his USA Today opinion piece, “People don’t seem to have gotten significantly smarter or better-informed.”


We have all this information, but we…

… reserve the right to think whatever we want…
… reserve the right to treat opinion sources as fact…
… and we reserve the right to ignore perspective (or think lesser of it) if it makes our truth a little less convenient.

So I ask again: why?

Is this where social media is playing an unintended role? Are we allowing social media to dictate our sense of understanding, even with all this info at hand? Or is approval and popularity distorting understanding?

In other words, have “likes,” “dislikes,” and those angry emojis, etc. become our barometers of perceived wisdom?

Said Reynolds, “Facebook and social media are exploiting our evolutionary need for approval. That’s one reason the Internet and WiFi aren’t making us smarter.” 

“Like” does not equate to accurate nor wise.

Maybe we post an article totally denigrating a single political party. Someone approves.

We share a rant that downright belittles another person. Someone gives us a thumbs up.

In a snap or thread, we lambaste the one who disagrees. We get a few “ha ha’s,” maybe even a “good one!”

But tell me: since when did denigration, belittlement, and lambasting qualify as a sign of wisdom?

We have all this information available, and yet, the better, faster, and more doesn’t seem to be making us smarter at all.



[See entire article from Glenn Harlan Reynolds here.]