Both Nicholas Carr’s article in The Atlantic and The Huffington Post article highlight today’s unprecedented availability of information; which can, if used responsibly, enrich our lives through greater efficiency accomplishing everyday tasks. Seamless access to information can also go beyond efficiency to degrading social, professional and familial relationships.
The boundary between efficient usage of the Internet to accomplish everyday tasks and overuse was blurred by the inception of mobile Internet-enabled devices and social media. Before Apple released the iPhone in 2007, the Internet was accessed via laptops and desktop computers. Thus, access to the Internet was not omnipresent. A user would have to be still in a single location for a certain amount of time to use the device. It would seem out of place to carry a laptop or desktop computer out to dinner with a friend or on a walk to the grocery store. The introduction of the iPhone and other subsequent smartphones and tablets eroded this compartmentalization of Internet usage. As an owner of a smartphone and laptop computer, this compartmentalization seems like a valid method of avoiding the flattening of human intelligence into artificial intelligence that Carr referred to in his article; and ensure that Internet usage remains a tool to realize greater efficiency in our lives.
The combination of social media and applications for smartphones provide the potential for misuse of the Internet and its information. It no longer seems out of place for people to take their personal computer (smartphone or tablet) with them to a meal with a friend. According to an article in The Economist, half of the adult population today owns a smartphone. By 2020, 80% of adults will own a smart, mobile phone. Smartphones’ rapid rise to social ubiquity provides the potential for degradation of human intelligence that Carr wrote about in his article.
The Economist’s statistics show that access to information is only going to expand long term. To fit this trend, for example, news will be communicated in fewer and fewer characters. Smart consumers of information however also recognize the value of a capacity for concentration and contemplation. Also, people should appreciate the power of the Internet to connect to each other, but once they are physically together; acknowledge each other, not their mobile devices.