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Opposing Viewpoints: Is technology a turnoff? Con: Upgrading your intelligence

By Denebola
Published: September 2008

By Rebecca Goldstein

Television is rotting your brain. You should be reading, not playing video games. You’ll gain much more by doing your homework than you will by reading blogs.

Right?

It’s true that today’s teenagers are more technologically aware than they’ve ever been, and the generation gap is as wide as ever, but it only means that this generation has more opportunities to learn than any in the past.

The biggest innovation of the Internet has been the dissemination of information and the democratization of news.

Want to know the inflation rate in Zimbabwe? The history of shipbuilding? A chemistry problem set? Karl Rove’s take on the presidential race? A chronological list of all the rulers of Nepal? Or would you prefer alphabetical?

All of it is on the Internet. Never before has so much information been available so easily to so many people.

But even the wide availability of information is only one side of the coin, for just as important are the people producing the information and posting it to the web.

Time magazine’s 2007 Person of the Year award went to You for good reason, because You–that is, the consumers of online information–are the ones producing the online information. The advent of so-called “user-generated content is making teachers out of the most ordinary people.

Ever notice that when you explain the material on tomorrow’s math quiz to your friend, you understand it better? Scientists agree that one of the most effective ways to learn is to teach, and online content provides ample opportunities to share what we know. Online how-tos give advice on everything from trigonometry to tying sailor’s knots to making out. Wikipedia’s science articles are some of the online encyclopedia’s most accurate, and most of the science content is not even written by experts’€just geeks with an Internet connection.

Blogs allow experts and laymen alike to participate in public discussion. Want to know what’s going to run in the top left column of the

New York Times tomorrow morning? Check three liberal blogs that have become crucial to this year’s presidential race: Daily Kos, TalkingPoints- Memo, and the Huffington Post.

Even beyond the Internet, modern technology is teaching us. Steven Johnson argues in his bestselling Everything Bad Is Good For You that even video games and television shows actually make us smarter. The plotlines of today’s television shows are more complex than any in the past, with each episode of shows like

The Sopranos, 24, and Grey’s Anatomy demanding that we follow multiple threads of the storyline, perceive subtle emotions, and pick up complex medical or military jargon from context.

Video games like Grand Theft Auto require players to navigate through a virtual world with complicated rules and regulations of its own. Call of Duty, Spore, and even The Sims are far more complex than any game of Pong your parents ever played.

So this afternoon, when your parents try to pry you away from the TV or computer screen, tell them it’s making you smarter. Maybe don’t mention that it’s making you smarter than them.

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