Looking Up Things To Figure Them Out: The Google Generation

Einstein was once asked to leave a classroom for talking back to his teacher, saying that memorising history dates was useless: “When you need one, you can look it up in a book,” he said. But what happens when an entire generation grows up with the idea that anything can be looked up?Trevor Baylis, inventor of the wind-up radio and now 75, says it is in risk of becoming brain-dead. “Children have got to be taught hands-on... (kids are) dependent on Google searches ... a lot of kids will become fairly brain-dead if they become so (dependent) on the Internet, because they will not be able to do things the old-fashioned way.”

One can learn a lot — more than time will permit in a lifetime, in fact — just from Google searches, leave alone dedicated Internet research on a topic. Last week, a friend needed to build a brick-based barbecue; he was up and running after a few Google searches, and he had a functioning barbecue in less than a week.

You can easily remember what this would entail 15 years ago. 

But information availability has ruined lives, literally. Think about the man who drove off a cliff in 2007 because his GPS said there was a road ahead (instead of a cliff edge, which he could see). To me, this is a case of too much of a good thing. The balance isn’t easy. 

Not all of us are inventors as Baylis was. We look for info about how to repair our computers, and about which flights will get us to New York (and how to buy those flight tickets). We don’t “do things the old-fashioned way.” We are very dependent on the Internet. But somehow, we manage to get along.

With kids, it’s a different matter. The most popular Google autocomplete for “how to” is “how to kiss.” What does that tell you about looking up stuff to figure it out? Sound off in the comments below!