Sometime in the future, history will record that the early twenty-first century was when mankind started to become dumber. Not dumber in the sense of foolish and acting immature. I am referring to actual IQ's and the ability to learn and reason. I am dating my self by even mentioning the word, encyclopedia. A long time ago this was how we learned. That is before there was the Internet. For those too young to remember, these were beautiful collections of hard-bound books where we could find answers to questions that our teachers posed. Like how many plays did William Shakespere write, or what is the second tallest mountain in the world? We would have to sift through pages of related information to find these answers and in the process learned a lot more than the answer to the original question. Now you "Google" it or easier still just ask your personal digital assistant, like Alexa. Why bother having to type in the question? And we studied in libraries. Do they still even have these and what does one do there?
How does this affect our brains? Well, being on the cusp of old age, my memory for sure is not what it used to be. However, I now use electronic short cuts to search for answers I used to have to ponder. And I am not referring to how many questions I get right on "Jeopardy." Don't recall who won the academy award for best picture? Not to worry. Don't think. Just look it up or better still ask Siri. Our minds are becoming lazy and it is no wonder that our society has devolved into alt this and alt that and "fake news." We have lost not only our ability to reason and think critically, but we have relied upon the World Wide Web to guide us with moral decisions as well. When the number of "hits" on You Tube or Instagram is all that is important, then in the face of a natural disaster or accidents, of course we reach for our smart phones to record the scene. Common sense would dictate that rather we should immediately be using the phone to call for help, or better yet giving first responder assistance to the affected parties.
There is auto-correct on our phones for text messaging; both a blessing and a curse. There is spell check in Word documents so we can lose our spelling skills. Even doctors' minds have become lazier with electronic medical records providing quick and easy blueprints for our notes and coding.
Need more proof? A recent three year study of freshman and senior students at about 200 colleges, showed that during those four years, more than half of schools, and at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table. Sadly, test results, designed specifically to measure these things, indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years. That goal would seem to be kind of given after someone plunks down $100,000+ for four years of "learning."
Clearly it will take a paradigm shift to stop this movement towards intellectual abyss. Universities need to teach students "how to" think, problem solve, reason, and resolve moral and ethical dilemmas. Perhaps the Scripps National Spelling Bee should give more and bigger prizes. Perhaps we should turn auto-correct features off of our phones. I am not sure and don't have ready answers. However, I am still resisting the purchase of an Amazon Echo or Dot. My brain is working hard enough already just to keep up with the information it used to contain.