Information Age Intelligence

Julian Baggini writes about “Information Age Intelligence.” He raises a couple of the objections made by critics of technological society. First that we are losing our memory for information and becoming dependent on the ability to search for information and..

The second concerns the actual way we deal intellectually with problems. Jason L Frand in his seminal paper “The Information Age Mindset” captures this in the memorable phrase “Nintendo over logic”. Frand argues that for those growing up in the information age, the most natural way to deal with a problem is through trial and error, not by logical analysis. You get good at computer games by having plenty of goes, not by spending a lot of time cognising about the best strategy.

You can tell if someone has the information age mindset by seeing what they do when you give them some new device or piece of software. While the old-fashioned read the manual and follow the instructions, the children of the information age simply turn it on and start fiddling about until they figure out how it works. And you can be sure that they’ll get things working first.

Baggini demolishes both of these objections quite well. Pointing out that memorizing does not equal intelligence and that deductive logic is not the only way to think.

IT certainly is changing our world. But those who argue that it is fundamentally changing the way we think are, I have argued, overstating their case. It is true that the ability to retain information in memory has become less important now that retrieving it from the world has become easier. But intelligence was never simply about memory and understanding requires more than the ability to get hold of facts. It is true that the use of computers, particularly games, requires more induction than deduction, but induction is a vital part of rationality not some rival to it. And it is just not true that logical thinking as a whole has been sidelined by the information age: logic is used explicitly by programmers and implicitly by those who understand that logic rules govern the games and applications they use. If the information age is changing the way we think it is by shifting the emphases, not by introducing a radical new paradigm of rationality.

Trial and error are certainly becoming more prominent today. The weblog is a perfect example as people write for shorter forms over a compressed timeline and depend on others for feedback to improve the process. Hopefully this will continue to be a benefit to all.