A recent study pitted students in a library against students using Google. Both groups had to answer a set of questions. Hal Varian, Google's chief economist was overjoyed at the results:
It took them 7 minutes to answer the questions on Google and 22 minutes to answer them in the library. Think about all the time saved! Thirty years ago, getting answers was really expensive, so we asked very few questions. Now getting answers is cheap, so we ask billions of questions a day, like “what is Jennifer Aniston having for breakfast?” We would have never asked that 30 years ago.
Nicholas Carr isn't satisfied:
How did the University of Michigan researchers come up with the questions that they had their subjects find answers to? They "obtained a random sample of 2515 queries from a major search engine." Ha!
Maybe the question we should be asking, not of Google but of ourselves, is what types of questions the Net is encouraging us to ask. Should human thought be gauged by its output or by its quality? That question might actually propel one into the musty depths of a library, where "time saved" is not always the primary concern.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.