"The Death of Why?" by Andrea Batista Schlesinger

Introduction

Last five years have changed my life drastically. I was a witness of how fast new technologies were emerging and developing. My parents had cell phones with buttons, and now they use new mobile sensor technology. My grandparents had large and heavy computers. Today, my generation utilizes portable and light laptops. Everything is changing so rapidly that people have to digest the appearance of new technologies and their meaning in the life. It is especially true with the Internet and new opportunities people receive from it.

 

Chapter “In Google We Trust” by Andrea Batista Schlesinger

My friends and fellow students believe the World Web contains all the necessary information. Nevertheless, I, having a skeptical nature, need to double-check everything before accepting it as true. I feel sorry for those who overrate the credibility of Google since it has negative consequences for them. No matter how persistently I attempt to convince others that the Web does not hold all possible data, I encounter with disapproval of the surrounding people. Luckily, I know now that my suspicions are not without rational ground. At least, that is what I discovered in the chapter “In Google we trust” by Andrea Batista Schlesinger. I strongly agree with the author’s view that Google negatively affects people as I can confirm it from my personal experience.

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Most of all I concur with the author in her observation that the Web develops some poor habits of mind. As Schlesinger states, “First, young people search for information online without any intention. […]. Second, they do not question the sources of the information found through their searches. […] Young people are barely reading what they discover anyway – because the Internet is changing the very way they read” (Schlesinger 61-62). This observation does reflect the reality because this is what my peers actually do. Unfortunately, the majority of young people are too lazy to consider the data they obtain.

To my mind, students tend to trust search engines like Google because of the fast access to online encyclopedias. I have to admit I also trusted Wikipedia some time ago. However, once when I decided to compare data about my favorite band found in Wikipedia with the information on their official website, I found several inconsistencies. To add even more, the free online encyclopedia page itself contains a warning to check the reliability of its content. This fact made me consider what I read at the Internet pages more thoroughly. The Wikipedia experiment inspired me to be more attentive and critical, and I try to convince my friends to act in the same way.

The Fourth Chapter of "The Death of Why?"

I cannot but agree with another author’s finding about the consequences of blind trust to search engines. It is about students losing the discernment, that is the ability to interpret what they read. The given chapter points to the fact that students would rather expect someone more intelligent deciding what they need for themselves. A vivid example of the discernment shortage is revealed in the case with the reference librarian Emily Drabinski. Andrea Schlesinger recites the astonishment of the young librarian as “high school and college students, and sometimes even their teachers – do not understand that only they can determine the relevance of the retrieved information, not Google, not Yahoo!, not even their librarian. This acumen requires reading, thinking and evaluating” (Schlesinger 66).

Sometimes when my friends ask me to tell them what is relevant to their home assignments, I become puzzled because I reckon they should know better. When I tell them about that, they reply that they need some additional help in determining what information would be the most appropriate. I am sure they can develop critical analysis skills if they want, and the first step for that would be sorting the information into necessary and unnecessary.

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One more negative consequence of overestimating Google’s reliability is neglecting such filters as pertinence, authority and accuracy. The author of “In Google We Trust” sees the cultural impact in it, saying, “In a culture that prizes finding “the answer,” it becomes less important to evaluate the source, the relevance, or the authenticity of that answer” (Schlesinger 69). I know it is difficult to resist the temptation to trust the seemingly scholar results of the search. Nevertheless, the truth is many websites pursue commercial goals. For instance, if one types “useful food” to find something beneficial for health, the results would not necessarily correspond to the primary purpose that.

One of the top results would be a web page of Thailand’s leading snack manufacturer, Useful Food Co. Everyone would agree that snacks belong rather to fast food than to food rich in microelements and vitamins the human body needs. It is just one of many examples of how search engines direct the internet users to what interested parties desire t. Keeping the above-mentioned in mind would be of a great help to students who concern about the trustworthiness of information.

Finally, the author infers that using the Internet provokes the distraction and makes young people get accustomed to superficial reading. According to Andrea Schlesinger, “People may be longer online, but their attention span decreases. They may plug in more search terms, searching for more information, but they have less interest in meaningful inquiry and less energy to pursue it. […] In the end, having access to an infinite amount of information is meaningless” (Schlesinger 72).

The statement mentioned by Andrea Schlesinger reminded me of the autumn day when my groupmates and I discussed what we had read. It was after some holidays, and we were eager to share our impressions of modern literature. I was reading books in print and I had a lot to tell to my friends. To my surprise, the majority of them could not retell the contents of the books they had read online. One girl told me the following, “I remember the main events from the book but I do not pay attention to details and what the characters are speaking about.” I was surprised to hear this because characters’ dialogs comprise the essence of the plot uncovering. So, I would totally agree with the author on the point that people need to cultivate their observational skills and natural curiosity. These traits may be very helpful in acquiring the quality information.

Conclusion

To conclude, thoughtless using of the Internet for obtaining data may have several harmful consequences. First, it encourages students to be slothful and do not develop their critical thinking skills. Thus, they unlearn how to make a meaningful search and how to deal with its results. Second, it deters young people from interpreting the results of the search properly. As a result, students expect someone to come and explain to them what is relevant to the investigation and what is not. Third, overestimation of Google’s credibility leads to disregarding such criteria as relevance, authority and precision. Instead, the students may use the data from commercial sources that pursue their own subjective interests. Finally, the attentiveness of the students suffers. I believe works like the one Andrea Batista Schlesinger wrote can draw public attention to the problem many people neglect. People should learn how to search and analyze the data wisely because computers would never do it for them.

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