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Odds and Ends, People

Loss of Debate (or Why should anyone hate Internet)

The other evening, I was attending a music concert put up by the fans of RD Burman – a well known Bollywood music composer. As a part of the event there was a quiz on RD Burman works. For the first few questions time was given for the audience to answer after a song. However this changed as the quiz master found people using the ubiquitous Google over the Internet through their mobiles… – to find the answer!

It was common to see children arguing about who scored the maximum homeruns in the season on ’74 or who were nominated for Oscars the last year. A debate will normally ensue – they will go home or to the library or ask an accepted guru. The time elapsed from the time the question was posed till the time the answer was found was useful. They debated, argued, gave some answers and this led to some healthy interaction.

However with the Internet all that has vanished. Internet does not let a debate prolong. It settles it immediately. Online evidence is not usually questioned specially if seen on Wikipedia or some equivalent site. The effect of all this is the loss of debate, the loss of Archimedean glee when an answer was found and the loss of a healthy interaction.

Mind you this in no way demeans Internet or Wikipedia. The main reason I feel is the increased need for instant gratification, the intense need to put a question to rest. I also suspect impatience too is playing a role here.  From wanting to know the supplier name when the code is entered to Google auto suggestion all nifty user interface innovations seek to increase gratification. Chat software letting you know that your opposite is now typing is another example.

But there is one great advantage of reading a book on the Internet and that is the ability to book mark without dog ears!!



10 thoughts on “Loss of Debate (or Why should anyone hate Internet)

  1. Yes, absolutely true. There is no desire for a greater understanding among internet users. All we want is instant answers, as you said. I read a similar article on the Hindu and it really opened my eyes. I found out that I did use the internet exactly the way u stated. Seeking instant gratification. The article also mentioned about Nicholas Carr and his book “Is Google Making us Stupid?” and guess what I did next? i just googled his name and went to the wiki page, followed a series of hyperlinks and rapidly skimmed through it to get the gist of his opinions!
    (P.S- I do intend to read that book)

    Posted by Vishnu. V | February 26, 2012, 9:11 pm
  2. Access to facts, getting answers to facts is not bad. Arguing about facts may have its value, but debating and the art of furthering your thoughts in areas beyond fact, is time spent better…so if Internet gives us access to facts faster – not a bad thing, use it and make time to do something better.

    Posted by Nanda Kumar | February 27, 2012, 2:17 am
  3. Are we not moving up the value chain?

    Posted by Udayan Banerjee | February 27, 2012, 6:29 am
  4. Not sure if it is a bad thing, really! For example, many quizzes tend to be fairly superficial, with individual data items being asked without reference to context. Accessing the Internet (wikipedia or Google) to resolve those are fine. However, good questions still require a lot of work, e.g. asking people who painted a picture, or the name of a song, or even drilling down on questions, such as “Which Australian bowler took as many wickets in his last series as his age, but was then dropped?”

    Posted by G Krishnamurthy | February 27, 2012, 10:00 am
    • Obviously as things become tougher in context search engines will fail . reminds me of Feynman who said he could do mental maths until some one asked taninv(x) and then he got stumped!!

      Posted by eswarann | February 27, 2012, 10:24 am
      • No, what I mean is something like asking a question “Who wrote The Tale of Two Cities” vs “Why was Charles Darnay sentenced to death”. Question 1 is a memory jog, but Question 2 requires one to have read the book and recall that Charles Darnay was sentenced to death because he was the nephew (even though estranged) of Marquis Evremonde. Same topic, same requirement – but Google takes longer to answer the second as opposed to the first question.

        Posted by G Krishnamurthy | February 28, 2012, 11:40 am
      • That would be good….

        Posted by eswarann | February 28, 2012, 12:50 pm
  5. Also – what bothers me is the trust in the internet. You google, or bing, or baidu, or whatever – and the results it throws is something that is treated as gospel. This also reduces the need for one to remember. Now that is scary too. The mind gets trained not to remember this as this information is supposed to be at your finger tips assuming that you have access to the internet. Now if you try to find the same information, say after a few months, I suspect that these search engines will spit out different information, based on what they deem right. So people are getting stupider and stupider. Also the power of reasoning is at stake!!! Make no mistake – I am not prejudiced. I am an avid user of the internet. And since there is intense trust, the inspiration to use other sources to search for information, the ability to reason and debate is indeed lost. You are right buddy Eswarann.

    Posted by Sanjeev Dange | February 28, 2012, 1:18 am

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