What's the capital of Uruguay? Who was the first female NASA astronaut? What exactly is Newton's Second Law of Motion? Oh, that's easy! Google. Google. Google.
Believe it or not, there was a time when the world expected you to actually remember and analyze those dates, facts and other bits of highly forgettable information you were taught in high school. Now, instead of long-term memory and intelligence, we have a search box.
This idea raises a provocative question: Does Google really make us dumber or have we as a global society simply changed the definition of "smart?"
A recent article in The Atlantic Monthly points out that people have been blaming technology for our downwardly spiraling intelligence since day one. Socrates bemoaned the invention of the written word, saying it would cause humans to become forgetful [source: Carr]. The printing press sparked outcry over the democratization of knowledge and its degrading effect on religious belief.
The Internet also has its critics. Studies show that the Internet has caused some clear shifts in the way we process information [source: Rich]. In the online realm, skimming, link-jumping and other nonlinear reading is more common than digesting long sections of text, as we would in a book or magazine. Critics argue that our growing disinterest in reading longer passages of text means we can't think critically about a subject [source: Carr].
Defenders of the Internet make the opposite argument: Google has made us infinitely more intelligent by giving us instant access to all the world's collective knowledge [source: Grier]. They argue that Google is the smart solution to a technologically "dumb" and outdated library system [source: Polaine]. With Google, we can gather up-to-the-minute information from myriad sources with blazing speed.
In other words: Yes, we skim, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.