internet

Recently I read an article that I feel is a foundational shift in how we humans acquire information.

In Scientific America’s December 2013 Issue, the article “How Google is changing your brain” laid out a research based perspective that postulates that the Internet has replaced our typical human memory partners.

In the past, a team of people (a family, work group, etc.) would disperse information amongst each to assemble a set of knowledge that far exceeded the knowledge of the individual. We did this for practical reasons, one person just can’t know it all, and so we spread the memory load.

Theoretically this made us more effective as a team rather than individually “two heads are better than one” became a common phrase for a reason. But the trend is pointing towards one head plus the Internet is better than two!

Today, the Internet is replacing the human memory exchange. And why not? The Internet is available instantly, anywhere, whenever we want, about anything, and we can get multiple opinions quickly too.

I do not think there is a person who would argue against the Internet being an efficient method to get information, to learn, to become knowledgeable. Yes knowledgeable, at least that is how users perceive it. Research says that when we use the Internet as our source, we tend to internalize it as “our” knowledge. Rather than regarding the Internet as a source, we begin to look at it as a cognitive tool.

I can imagine the huffing and the rolling eyes going on right now. Yes there are great pitfalls in this thinking that the Internet creates knowledge. I realize there is a flip side. The common phrase “knowing enough to be dangerous” exists for a reason. Not to mention, the expertise we each hold, that we worked hard to earn; the Internet surely cannot hold a candle to that. Can it? Accessing our specialized knowledge will most certainly be more valuable. Won’t it?

I say that may very well be so, but finding you or me and getting an answer RIGHT now is far too complex vs. the instant ease of the Internet competitor. We have said many times in this blog, if nothing else, we humans are wired to be efficient, so human memory and knowledge partners lose, the Internet wins. The digital partner will not be perfect (and truthfully the human partner is not perfect either) but like it or not, most will consider it good enough for most situations.

This sure got me thinking about the implications.

In business we need to make sure that our business offerings are truly value added; contextualizing, sense making and application will need to accompany information. Experience will be an even more critical part of any client exchange. Also be aware that the savvy consumer will arrive informed and require a more sophisticated starting point, this will require more of your front line and all touch points.

Well it seems that maybe one head and the Internet not only suffices, but may actually be better.

Who’s in your knowledge expansion group? Humans? Or is it the Internet?

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