Several years ago before technology became a major source of information, we were required to drive or walk to the library and get the information that we needed. Today, we live in the age of answers and instant gratification. There is a plethora of information in the world and all of it is available to anyone with Internet connection. Search engines have found a way to field our inquiries with remarkable efficiency. In a brief period of time, we all have become habituated to an endless supply of easy answers. You might even say we have become dependent.
In the primal days of search engines, researching information was like fishing in a river. You could hook in a good fish but you were just as likely to reel in an old rubber boot. Today, we tend to be able to find exactly what we want at the blink of an eye. The gap between a question crystallizing in our heads and the answer showing up on your screen is declining considerably as technology improves. As a consequence, our capacity to ask questions is withering. Hours of research to find answers have now gone down to spending minutes to locate the solutions. Psychologists Shelley Taylor and Susan Fiske coined the term cognitive miser, “to construe the stinginess with which the brain allots limited attention and its inherent propensity to seek mental shortcuts”. The easier it is for us to find information, the less likely it is to stick. With search engines, we now have a tendency to forget things we are sure to find over the Internet and to remember those we won’t find online.
A day will arise, in the not-so-distant future, when the gap between questions and answers will dissipate. I believe we should all strive to keep it open. The search engine can make us feel all-knowing but it’s the feeling of not knowing something which inspires the thirst to learn. When a thought provoking question is given time to incubate, it can lead us to places we had never planned to visit. Searching for an answer in a book is inept and takes more time than its digital counterpart but while flipping through those pages your eyes may dance across information that you never thought you’d read.
It’s been suggested that the search engine relieves us of the arduous burden of memorizing information. Why clutter our minds with facts, when they can be retrieved in a couple of swipes and clicks? Knowledge doesn’t just fill the brain up, it actually makes it function better. The gap between an intriguing question and its answer is where creativity thrives and progress is made. Without search engines, people would do what they have been doing for hundreds of years. They would rely on each other. They would rely on the community or on the assemblage of publications known within their industry or geographic location.They would rely on word of mouth or assimilate information from common resources like a library, forum or marketplace. The search engine should be best treated as a starting point rather than a destination, and we should remember that human interaction will always play an imperative role in fueling our quest for knowledge. After all, a search engine never says, “I don’t know, what do you think?”