Don’t let Google eat your brain. Don’t let the internet do your thinking for you. It’s a great way to gather facts, but facts must be interpreted. This is true in all of life. A blood glucose measurement of 130 mg/dl is a meaningless fact without an interpretation (diabetes). A huge dark wall of clouds approaching from the west is a meaningless fact without an interpretation (thunderstorm). And the explosively expanding pool of facts searched by Google also need interpretation.
For example, suppose you came across the statistic that college graduates make almost twice as much money per year as high school graduates who never went to college. That is what we might call a “fact,” though it may also be questionable. But then you read the interpretation: College degrees cause people to make more money. It seems to make sense… until you remember that correlation does not imply causation. What if those who are more highly motivated are more likely to go to college, and what if it is motivation, rather than degrees, that leads to higher salaries? There could be other explanations as well. My point is only to illustrate the difference between facts and interpretations.
Unfortunately, the internet makes it easy to skip the interpretation part altogether, collecting other people’s interpretations and taking them for our own. In other words, it’s easy to let other people do all our thinking for us.
In school, this might mean googling a question on your homework and just writing down the answer you find at Cha Cha or Yahoo Answers. In life, it might mean doing the same with questions about who to vote for (or whether to vote) or what diet to choose.
There are two problems with this. First, you are also not getting any practice at thinking and judging, analyzing situations and evidence, solving problems, or deciding on a proper course of action. You are not learning to think. In fact, you’re probably getting worse at it. And that’s not good, because the point is you are putting something else between you and reality, and so you are no longer in control of how you respond to reality–someone else is. By relinquishing the responsibility to think and decide for yourself, you have surrendered control, freedom, and power–the power to improve your life.
Maybe these people on the internet have your best interest in mind. Maybe they are trustworthy. But maybe not. I may be willing to let them decide what shirt I should wear with khakis, but I sure won’t let them decide any important issues, like how to live my life. For that, I may ask advice from family, friends, counselors, teachers, tutors, internet experts, even Cha Cha, bloggers and internet forums, but in the end it is my responsibility, my privilege, my freedom to choose my path.
I want it go like this: facts–>my perception, interpretation and decision–> my action. Not like this: facts–>someone else’s perception and interpretation and decision–>my action.
So how about this strategy: Use Google to find facts, which may include other people’s ideas and interpretations, and then judge them for ourselves. That’s how we can can be closest to reality and live with the greatest responsibility and freedom and learn to think most powerfully and masterfully.
But keep your brain. Keep the thinking for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.