Agreed with this 100%.
Regular readers will recognize this as a version of my theory that “the internet is now a major driver of the growth of cognitive inequality.” Or in simpler terms, “the internet makes dumb people dumber and smart people smarter.”
When I was a kid and there was no practical internet, I’d write down things I wanted to look up at the library. Most I would just forget. Many questions were unanswerable, and even the librarians weren’t able to assist.
It’s been well over a decade now since I’ve not been able to find – and quickly, too – some sort of reasonable answer, explanation or how-to for something on the internet that I want to find out more about or learn how to do.
Hell, I learned enough about Red Hat Linux in four months using internet resources only to pass a very demanding exam that fifty percent of people fail.
This is amazing still to someone like me who grew up outside a racist hick town where finding out anything was nearly impossible.
And yet watching people still struggle to complete a basic Google search, and having no way to determine good evidence from bad evidence, I realize like Kevin Drum that the internet hasn’t made everyone smarter.
It’s made people like me effectively more intelligent – and in many ways hugely so — while for those outside the little sphere of cognitive elite (for lack of a better term), it’s made the 80 to 90% effectively dumber, relatively if not absolutely.
Inequality works nearly the same for intelligence I think as it does for wealth – the more you have, the easier it is to acquire additional resources.