Every year I repost/review the Edge Annual Question as a refresh/reboot as my new year starts. The 2010 Question – “How is the Internet changing the way you think?” appears at first as a bit mundane, but as the 137 writers approach the task with their own personal take on the question I find enough to provoke some – um- deep thinking.
A few of my favourite behavioural themes get an airing – Nassim Taleb, author of the Black Swan, considers the impact of information:
So consider the explosive situation: more information (particularly thanks to the Internet) causes more confidence and illusions of knowledge while degrading predictability.
So much information, so much ignorance is his view – before he switches off the internet and returns to his well stocked physical library. David Myers states the obvious that the Internet as social amplifier can work for good and evil, and Chris Dibona (Google) doesn’t think the net creates ignorant people – they are just as likely to be ignorant without it. Most of the other authors accredit the net to broadening their horizons and despite the brain power on show often in relatively simple ways. (I was expecting Andrew Keen to pitch in on how we are letting the amateurs take over, but sadly no room for just one more iconoclast). Brian Eno finishes his answer/essay off with:
I notice that almost all of us haven’t thought about the chaos that would ensue if the Net collapsed.
I notice that my daily life has been changed more by my mobile phone than by the Internet.
Stephen Pinker is robust:
To be sure, many aspects of the life of the mind have been affected by the Internet. Our physical folders, mailboxes, bookshelves, spreadsheets, documents, media players, and so on have been replaced by software equivalents, which has altered our time budgets in countless ways. But to call it an alternation of “how we think” is, I think, an exaggeration.
OK… no need to read every essay but surf the names you know or the titles that take your fancy – we still need the Edge Question every year.