Why Google & Wikipedia are making us dumber


Google and Wikipedia turn everyone into instant experts on any given subject matter. However, because we know that information is easily available again, we make very little effort to retain it. Plus, with the mobile revolution (slowly) progressing, we now have the ability to get at that information from where we choose. As we learned from Instant Information Devaluation, the value of newly attained information plummets as soon as it is attained. With Google and Wikipedia in cahoots to attain the well intentioned goal of allowing us to find and attain knowledge in a manner of seconds, it essentially lowers the bar for good knowledge. When the bar is lowered, the quality of the subjects who can get over that bar greatly decreases. Essentially, the same argument can be made for GPS, taxi drivers or even chauffeurs. So what are the options? Stop using Googipedia and get left behind?

A basic economical principle is the Division of Labor. In simple terms, it basically states “you do what you do best, I’ll do what I do best and barter/buy each other’s services”. This is the foundation of all modern economies (except for Zimbabwe). A barrier being only the transaction costs (search, information, negotiating a price, etc) associated with the deal. In this situation, we rely on Googipedia to do two things for us better than we ever could: search and aggregate information.

Because Google & Wikipedia make information so readily available, it allows anyone to learn about any topic — essentially turning all of us into jack-of-all-trades. On the surface, this isn’t a bad thing — per se. The problem with that trend is that there are fewer “master of one” trade, and because the information they hold is available so freely, their value is diminished.

Do you feel differently? Googipedia “transaction costs” or “information costs” and let me know what you think in the comments below.

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