The Downside of Augmenting Human Intellect

To be honest, a lot of the technical information in this chapter went over my head, but Engelbart’s ideas did make me reflect on how we process information and how that might impact our students’ writing process. Last week we discussed some about whether or not technology and the Internet affect our decision making, and some of that conversation can carry over to Engelbart’s ideas.

Englebart discusses how he organizes and compiles information on these little cards, and that is what the Internet does for us now. Key words and search terms dominate much of how we find what we want on the Internet, whether it is cute photos of pugs or a news article, and I find myself categorizing information in my brain by key words or groups sometimes.

Englebart points out that categorizing and compiling is a much more efficient way to keep and look back at information, but he was not working with the amount of information we can get from the Internet today. Depending on how you use the Internet, you could become stuck in an overwhelming “technology loop” as seen in the Portlandia sketch linked above, and I wonder how this affects our students in how they write papers and research information. I believe part of the effect is detrimental. Many students are used to quickly searching through a few links to find what they need, which is research is so boring and a “waste of time” to them.








2 thoughts on “The Downside of Augmenting Human Intellect”

  1. I have to admit that I haven’t spent any time with Portlandia prior to watching this clip (though of Carrie Browstein and Fred Armisen, I am most certainly a fan), but this is both funny and funny-because-often-true. For me, the technology loop is most dangerous when I’m not particularly engaged with what I’m doing. Another word(s) for “engaged” here might be “intrinsically motivated” or “interested in.” I wonder how generalizable that is? I could see being a student who, regardless of age/generation, is more interested in following rabbit trails on reddit than reading Victorian prose. What do you think?

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