(Marty) #1

Is Smart


Making Us

Yes and no: there are reasonable arguments
on both sides of the question


e still haven’t grappled with the deep
questions Nicholas Carr brought to pub-
lic attention in his seminal book, The
Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our
Brains (2010). Is the Internet making us dumb? Is
the technology causing us cognitive loss or debili-
tation? Carr focused on the Internet, which is, by
design, a dumb technology—a general-purpose
digital communication infrastructure that pushed
“intelligence” to the ends of the network.
Since my own book Re-Engineering Humanity,
co-authored by Evan Sellinger, was published, I’m
often asked: Is smart technology making us
dumb? My first reaction is to bounce a few ques-
tions back. Can technology really be smart? Is
your question whether our use of certain technol-

ogies is making us dumb? Or is your question
about technology companies?
Eventually, I return to the original question and
respond like a lawyer: It depends. It’s yes in some
ways and no in others. Before addressing it, we
must acknowledge the conceptual mistake of
boiling intelligence down to a binary—smart ver-

sus dumb—as if it exists on a single dimension.
There are many different types of intelligence that
matter, and how technology affects different types
also varies considerably.
Once I’m done meandering, however I answer
yes. I believe we may be making ourselves dumb-
er when we outsource thinking and rely on sup- GUIDO MIETH


Brett Frischmann is Charles Widger Endowed University Professor
in Law, Business and Economics at Villanova University. His books
include Re-Engineering Humanity and the novel Shepard’s Drone.


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