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I have found that my long and short term memory is much worse than it once was.
Often I can't focus on thing in detail only skimming whole articles.

So, I tried googling these symptoms and I found several links that fit with the problem:

From the first link, I got this statement,

If somebody asks you how many national flags have just one color, do you think first about the actual flags? Or does your brain jump right to how you would find it? If you're an active Google user, you probably already started thinking of keywords. And the more you do it, the better you get at it.

And you know ? I start to think about how to search this on google...
This is totally wrong.

My approach to solve problems has changed, normally I should remember how to solve some problem, but now I just remember how to search some problem on google.

One thing that particularly alarming is that 15 second after read the article I tried googling with this query "Google make us stupid, and how I solve this problem".

Is there any member here that has this problem too ?

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love this comment: It is the information era. Information is dirt cheap, information processing is not. A smart person is no longer one who knows a lot of trivia knowledge. A smart person is someone who can make something useful out of it. – user3872 Sep 28 '12 at 17:13
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It wouldn't be wrong for me, I barely know national flags--thinking about flags would be useless.

Here's the thing: how do you want to "be smart"? What do you mean by "be smart"? And, related, what do you mean by "be smart"? And which is the most important to you? And does it change based on context? E.g., you have no internet: how will you think about it now?

Does "smart" mean you remember things? Is "smart" an ability to combine what you know, what you know how to know, and what other people know, and arrive at (potentially novel) solutions?

If you don't use it, you lose it.

You can't remember everything. You can't even remember most things1. What things do you want to remember? Focus on remembering those things–this is an active process, and requires time and effort. Spaced repetition is great for stuff like that (think flashcards, flashcard apps, or actively using that information... which might be tough for national flags).

Personally, I don't really need to know things like national flags. I might like to, but unless I focus specifically on that task, and actively re-train or drill so it cannot go away, it will go away. You have to pick and choose what you'll retain, then actively work to retain it.

1 Unless you're one of those people who remembers everything.

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+1 for noting there are different ways of being smart. – nayrb Sep 13 '12 at 15:43
after trying to push all information to my brain, I think you are right. We can't remember all thing, 1 in 1 out... Thanks for description of being smart... – guiltry Sep 14 '12 at 12:00

Memorizing all national flags is probably useless; I wouldn't worry about that.

Often I can't focus on thing in detail only skimming whole articles.

However, this is a serious problem. Please, let's not deny it! Even if Google gives you a relevant and correct article anytime you ask a question (which is far from guaranteed), if you are not able to process the article, you are becoming effectively stupid. Yeah, you can find anything; you just can't understand it!

This may seem exaggerated, but as a teacher I have seen it recently with many high-school students, and it's scary. The kids can use Google to find anything; then they can print the answer and bring it to school as their homework. But they are not able to describe the content of the article using their own words! They are able to get the answer from the other side of the planet in front of their eyes; it just cannot enter their brains. They will read it, and read it again, but that's all they can do with it; there is very low reading comprehension. Their parents are usually impressed by their ability to find various texts; but the problem is that despite having all knowledge of the planet at their fingertips, the knowledge remains arcane.

(Then in the later age we see various programmer-wannabes building their code from PHP and JavaScript snippets found online. If a variable name is changed, they can pattern-match it, but they don't truly understand what they wrote. If a greater change is needed, they start asking other people to do their homework for them. It's the same "question - answer - no comprehension" pattern over again.)

It is sane to be concerned when "googling" becomes a substitute not only for long-term memory, but also for understanding and thinking.

So, what is the solution? I don't have a full answer, but this seems to help:

1) Avoid stupid texts, and only read smart texts. Which could mean that you will regularly read only two or three websites and mostly avoid the rest of the internet. Sometimes it means that you will read the articles only, and intentionally skip the discussions below them. Be suspicious about too many too short text pieces.

2) Read something interesting and then discuss it with someone offline. This makes you practice your memory and text comprehension.

3) At the end of the day, try to remember all web pages you have read during the day. How many of them do you remember the topic of? How many of them could you summarize in one paragraph? This gives you some feedback on how much you are wasting your time. (I mean: if you don't remember it, or if there is nothing to remember, why waste your time reading it? Are you aware that you have some limited time here, and then you die?) Then, for a reality check, open your browser's history and see how many web pages have you really read during the day.

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I like to challenge my brain to give it a little time to remember something I used to know before turning to Google. Google is always a 2nd choice and a back-up resource. Despite it's awesome search engine capabilities, I believe the human brain is more amazing so I always exhaust that route first. Google's a tool built by man - no shame in using a tool, right?

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I like playing this game as well. For instance when I can't remember the name of an actor or actress instead of going right to Google or IMDb I'll try to remember on my own. The (partially tongue-in-cheek) name I use to describe this is "roughing it." – Ken Fehling Sep 19 '12 at 12:08
I like the "roughing it" analogy Ken, totally fitting! For names, I go through the alphabet - sometimes thinking letter-by-letter helps jog my memory! – Kristina Lopez Sep 19 '12 at 13:30

I do think there's an over-reliance on google. The search engine itself is fine, it's the information it returns that's suspect. One phenomenon I've noticed is that I turn to wikipedia a great deal for answers. But whenever I read wiki entries on subjects that I have in-depth knowledge of - I find they are filled with fundamental errors. Others I've spoken to have confirmed this same observation. This makes me very nervous about wikipedia as a source of reliable information in general - and I think it's downhill from there pretty much on the web.

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Edit it so it's right. – Dave Newton Sep 14 '12 at 12:19
The problem is the articles would require rewrites in many cases and it's a major project. I saw an article recently by someone who runs a skeptics website dedicated to inserting scientific skepticism into wiki articles on pseudo science that scientists barely contribute to wiki at all. They're too busy doing their real work. – MebAlone Sep 14 '12 at 17:19

There's a similar question of whether calculators make you lazy and stupid. And frankly, my answer is that you can't do advanced calculations without one. A calculator lets you decide how many things in your factory are defective or the ideal amount of cement to use in a pillar. It takes a much smarter person to master calculators than to master arithmetic.

It takes effort to keep things in your brain. Nobody can remember everything without putting effort into remembering things. Anyone who seems to be able to effortlessly memorize things has most likely put years of work into his memorization skills, at the cost of other skills.

It is the information era. Information is dirt cheap, information processing is not. A smart person is no longer one who knows a lot of trivia knowledge. A smart person is someone who can make something useful out of it.

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A smart person is someone who can make something useful out of it. okay, I got a new description for "smart people". Thanks – guiltry Sep 22 '12 at 10:01

I think this phenomenon is rampant. I would like to use a different case study, though.

I like to think of this issue as a trade-off between mental space and efficiency. Efficiency should also factor in the availability of information, too. Search engines are not of much use without an internet connection.

"RTM" stands for "Read The Manual". This is a basic work ethic for successful programmers, self-learners, and students. I think one would be extremely hard-pressed to find somebody out there that has completely memorized the API of one language in its entirety, rather than the general flow of multiple languages. Human memory is like cache memory; we use it and empty it as we need it.

That said, the difference between an acolyte and a master is how much information is stored within, and the applicability of said information. Think of the difference between rote memorization of math formulas and understanding of what those formulas describe.

I think it is more important to be able to quickly understand things and to have the drive to understand things deeply than it is to have eidetic memory, however wonderfully much I wish I could read something only once and never need to look it up again to quote it...

Perhaps the reason why you can't focus on details in articles is because you don't know why you're reading them, or you're feeling burned out. Those are signs of the times too ;)

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Were there really more people who knew all the national flags that only had one color before Google? Google doesn't make you dumber or smarter, it just makes you more likely to spend your time looking up useless trivia.

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