2 + 4 = Search: Effects internet searching has on the brain’s memory

Twenty-five years ago, no one had any idea how involved computer technology would become in daily life. Computers are everywhere and they are limited only by the software that they operate. But what exactly is software anyway? Do we as humans, have software in our brains? The human brain is essentially a biochemical computer. It processes a set of instructions, or algorithm, and executes commands. These instructions are learned, when we learn the connections between neurons form and that makes the algorithm. So what happens when these instructions have a missing link, or just fail to complete the task? Back in 2000 your computer would get the ‘blue screen of death’, but our brains don’t have that. We simply get stumped, we halt the thought process.

Enter Google. A search engine that’s sole purpose is to catalog and store information links. Google only knows one thing, directions. Google is much like the connections between our brain’s neurons; google takes in input, follows connections, and provides output. When our human brains get stumped and can’t find a solution quickly, we turn to Google to search the internet for it. This process is remapping how our neurons are laid out.

Take a elementary math problem of 2+4=6. Our brains read the problem of 2 + 4 and follow how we’ve solved this problem before, when we were taught. Most algorithms involved identifying the components, the 2 and 4,  some sort of counting, either imaginary or on fingers, and then a joining up of the components into one answer, 6. However, when this neuron map hits a road block, say on a difficult problem you have never learned how to solve, the brain draws the final connection from stumped to search google. We aren’t using google to learn more, but simply to process more information for us. During an exam, you can’t rely on Google but maybe one day you can.

But as everything with the internet comes and goes, what happens when Google goes? Most of our thinking leads to the conclusion of “input components into google, receive answer, repeat”. Just like our parent’s told us about not being able to use calculators on a test in school, we will tell our children how we were never allowed to search the internet for a solution. The internet isn’t making us any less intelligent but simply storing all of the information we once had in our brains in a digital world. It’s up to us to decide what it takes and what we keep.


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