Edge is asking an annual question. In 2010 the question was: how is internet changing the way your think? This question was presented to 151 people and they answered this question in 2-3 pages. Amazing to see how different the 151 answers are! It was a great read during the holidays, very inspiring and there were many things I recognised..
Some people state that the Internet is not really changing their way of thinking, but most of the writers respond it does. Many mention that they consulted pages on the internet while writing the piece, and so reached different conclusions than in a world without internet. Paul Bloom: "I realize how nice people can be through the Internet". Strangers devote their time to respond and share their ideas and knowledge. Haim Harari is a physicist and sees three major changes:
- Messages are getting shorter, the attention is more and more on one-liners (potentially misleading!)
- Facts are available on the Internet, so hence we need to think less about facts. Thinking comes more down to making connections, collecting new ideas, distinguishing head and side issues, analysis, etc. As the facts are now available on the Internet, we do pay less attention to remembering the fact. (though with the warning that it is important and hard to distinguish between pseudo- and real facts and facts on the internet)
- The process of learning and teaching is changing in-depth by all the possibilities and dangers of the Internet. Lessons of the greatest teachers in the world are available, we need to know fewer facts by heart as they can always to be found on the internet. This leads to a different pattern of knowledge, understanding and developing thinking in people. This fact has, according to him, not yet sufficiently penetrated and transformed the world of education. And I think it has not yet led to profound changes in the training / education world (but seems to come).
Personally my way of learning and thinking has changed dramatically by the Internet and especially social media. I follow many other professionals, what they are thinking, doing, sharing, reading. I become more creative, think of new possibilities. I am also a collector of information. The danger is that you do not have enough time reviewing the information to place and also had something to do, something that many authors mention in the book. Judith Rich Harris compares the Internet even with a bottle of ketchup. First too little came out, and now too big a glob. I have to watch myself that I'm not taking in and bookmarking too much information not using it to apply ideas and incorporate it in my own practices. I see my use of social media as supportive to developing my professional practice. Yet it happens that people retweet what they found through me and that I already forgot! I see this as the real danger. A beautiful expression of Brian Knutson (from this book) is 'survival of the focused'. He observes that some are steaming ahead as internetsailers, while others navigate around helplessly.
Making good use of the positive aspects of the new possibilities of learning through the internet while watching the pitfalls is necessary. For me, that means improving my focus on quality and application of new ideas, make sure it is not a mash of information, but that it affects and improves your own professional practice. So I try to read less, but apply more.