Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

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June 26, 2010 | 54,080 views

Digital media have made the creation and sharing of text, sound, and pictures cheap and global. But most people making use of it produce nothing more than an endless stream of mediocrity, which has lead to alarmed predictions of incipient intellectual collapse.

Of course, that's what always happens with an increase in access to media. As Gutenberg's press spread through Europe, it came with a flood of contemporary literature, most of it mediocre.

But the eventual result was new norms caused by abundant literature -- novels, newspapers, scientific journals, and the separation of fiction and non-fiction, all of which had the effect of increasing, rather than decreasing, the intellectual range of society.

Clay Shirkey, writing in The Wall Street Journal, opines:

"We are living through a similar explosion of publishing capability today ... Wikipedia took the idea of peer review and applied it to volunteers on a global scale, becoming the most important English reference work in less than 10 years ... Similarly, open source software, created without managerial control of the workers or ownership of the product, has been critical to the spread of the Web."

Reading is not a natural act; neither is using a computer. Literate societies invest extraordinary resources training children to read. Now is the time to determine what response should shape the use of digital tools.

Throughout history, anytime an explosion in media -- print, radio, digital, it doesn’t matter -- occurred there were naysayers who believed it would lead to the degradation of society.

A more apt description may be that when you expand the bounds of intellect as the Internet has done, so that knowledge is being shared and created in once unimaginable ways, it breaks cultural constraints and increases the intellectual capabilities of those who use it. Far from dumbing down society, this unprecedented technology has the capacity to make each of us smarter, or at least better informed.

You can, of course, easily spend hours a day frivolously searching the Web, and there’s a lot of low-quality content to be found. But the Internet also gives you access to an incredible wealth of information previous generations did not have, while giving each of us a platform to share ideas that, collectively, could change the very fabric of the future.

A Tool for Learning the Truth

The way effective change is created today is not by using money or power, but by leading people -- creating a tribe, creating a movement by connecting people and ideas.

Thanks to the Internet, “tribes” are now everywhere, connecting people with similar interests all across the globe.

Even people on the fringes can find each other and connect.

Today, it is tribes of likeminded people, not mass marketing, that align large numbers of people that incite change in our world.

And, it’s extremely efficient and effective, because you don’t have to force anyone. People seek you out and join your tribe because they WANT to; they want to connect with others of like mind, and these tribes create movements that incite change.

For instance, we now have over 1.5 million subscribers to this newsletter. All of you are interested in taking control of your health, and there is no doubt thatyou;re having a significant impact;on, changing the conventional medical paradigm.

Aside from the larger issues relating to conventional medicine as a whole, we, as a community, are also helping to quickly spread the truth in times when speed is as important as the spreading of the truth itself. Such was the case when we responded to the mass fear mongering and increasing panic over the swine flu.

My first swine flu alert was the most popular article I’ve ever published; it even set new records for bandwidth at the data center (one of the largest in the country) that hosts this site, and was the 7th most viewed article on the entire Internet on April 29, 2009.

It quickly received well over 1 million views and has been reposted on countless other sites across the Web. There’s no doubt it was a major contributor to the effective squashing of the unfounded fear mongering presented in the media.

You Can be an Active Participant

Clay Shirky, who wrote the Wall Street Journal article above and also authored Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, was in a profoundly powerful video last year that documents the enormous changes in media that have occurred in the last few years.

Interestingly, Clay was one of the people I studied in 1999 when I was seeking to improve my understanding of how to properly utilize Internet technology.

Unless you are a tech geek, it is highly unlikely you have recognized these crucial shifts, and the video is truly fascinating. Shirky does an absolutely outstanding job of explaining how media has become global, local, ubiquitous, and inexpensive.

As recently as the last decade, the majority of the media produced was by professionals, but now former consumers of media, like you, are the producers, and can rapidly share the message of TRUTH to your friends and networks. It is becoming more and more IMPOSSIBLE to hide the truth with the development of these social networks.

You can get involved simply by joining the two major social network players: Facebook and Twitter, and signing up for our social network on to connect with other like-minded individuals for support and insights.

As an aside, while you’re busy learning and sharing on the Web, your brain function is also getting a boost. Research has shown that surfing the Web activates regions in your brain related to decision-making and complex reasoning. So unlike passively watching TV, using the Internet is an engaging task that may actually help to improve your brainpower.

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