No Evidence Web is Bad for Brains, Despite Critics

By June 11, 2010

Whether the Internet helps or hinders our brain is a favorite subject of debate. The latest installment works in the Web's favor by way of Nick Bilton of the New York Times' Bits Blog. Steven Pinker, Harvard professor of psycholo

gy and cognitive scientist, argues that the brain-sucking Internet is a constructive that comes in a long line of novel media reactionary outcries that date all the way back to the invention of writing.

Electronic technologies are the subject en masse and separately of accusations of murdering discourse - PowerPoint, search engines and Twitter among a few. But Pinker believes that this practice fails any reality check - "When comic books were accused of turning juveniles into delinquents in the 1950s, crime was falling to record lows, just as the denunciations of video games in the 1990s coincided with the great American crime decline. The decades of television, transistor radios and rock videos were also decades in which I.Q. scores rose continuously."

As a test on current media, Pinker selects the progress of science to prove his point. Discoveries and progress are increasing rather than slowing, and Pinker is quick to point out that scientists are highly dependent upon e-mail, PowerPoint and other demonized tech on a momentary basis.

The author of "The Stuff of Thought," a popular science treatment of the relationship between language and human nature, balks at laycritics' use of neuroscience. While experience changes how the brain is wired, it does not directly mean that using new tech damages functioning.

Bilton also refers to science writers Jonah Lehrer and Maryanne Wolf to disprove critical claims either due to ineffective evidence or poor logic. But supportive research that Bilton offers includes positive skills gained from playing video games, as well as the benefits from more frequent reading, regardless of the media. "It could be argued that the Web, which is the ultimate library of words, video, images, interactivity, sharing and conversation, is the quintessential place to learn."

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