January 31, 2008

"The problem with the internet is that it makes us think we are all experts."

Have you ever done a search on Google for how to do something, how to fix a problem, or just for information on a topic to learn about?

If you are like most internet users, you have.

And, while the fountain of knowledge that the internet has become is plentiful and extremely rewarding, it creates a big problem - especially with, but not limited to, today's youth. The problem with the internet is that it makes us think we are all experts, when we're not.

Just because Google knows everything, doesn't mean you do too.

Google, today's leading search engine, has indexed and recorded more than 25 billion web pages and 1.3 billion images (source: Wikipedia), and massive online encyclopedias like Wikipedia have index almost as many topics as Google.

Whether you are looking to find a cure for the common cold, or how to build an A-Bomb, the internet is the place to look.

But that is where the problem begins. Once people start to look up this-and-that, they begin to think a bit more highly of themselves and their own knowledge.

Instead of taking the time to solve a mathematical problem, someone can simply type it into Google and get the answer. Just like that. And if you want to be a doctor, you don't really have to attend medical school for eight years; you can just learn everything you need to learn online.

Automobile problems? Do a quick search on Yahoo Answers. Want to be your own at-home vet? Google's got you covered. Need help with your taxes? Do I really need to keep going?

The internet is full of resources for everything and anything anyone could ever possibly need. But reading articles about a topic, watching DIY videos, and learning a little bit about something does not make you an expert. You cannot become a professional stock broker just by reading about it on Wikipedia.

And people need to start realizing this.

There is no doubt in my mind that we can learn a lot from the internet; we can become knowledgeable about things we otherwise never would have even dreamed about. But we tend to walk away feeling like professionals, like experts, when we're not really. To become an expert in something it requires time and trial-and-error and a lot more than just a video on YouTube and an article found on Google.

Do you agree?


Juggling Jason said...

I didn't know if I should agree or not so I googled it. I agree.

Just joking. I really do agree. I really do not like it when I ask a question and the reflex answer is "google it". Argh! I like humans!

nick said...

I agree. everyone thinks they can be a expert just by googling something.

Manizesto said...

I would not say the Internet makes me think I'm an expert, I would say the Internet makes me feel like I don't need to turn to an expert. For example, I'll always turn to WebMD before going to an actual doctor, but that doesn't necessarily mean I consider myself an expert.

Tanner Christensen said...

Jason: The "Google it" answer is becoming the normal answer, do you think it would be acceptable for students to answer a question on a test with "Google it"?

Thanks for the comment Nick.

Manizesto: Good point. I think that's an equal problem to people thinking their experts. Is it legitimate to look at the internet as an "expert"?

hotwheel said...

Just like in mathematics where the calculator is a tool, you still have to know the methods of getting to the right answer. Some are very efficient at doing so.

Google is simply that - a great calculator that helps people get to answers faster. The experts know the subject matter and use the tool to flesh out problems quickly.

Tanner Christensen said...

That's a great point hotwheel, so would you say that the internet can create experts who know how to use it efficiently?

Breana said...

What are you talking about? I read wikihow all the time. I can deliver a baby, program a computer, and even do brain surgery! College, smollege.

SearchBuzz said...

You mean I am not an expert, Tanner??

hotwheel said...

The web doesn't create experts, it is simply a catalyst for those with expert potential. Just like the calculator is a catalyst for ridiculously smart people to find answers even quicker.

If you don't know math, a calculator won't make you a mathematician.

Tanner Christensen said...

searchbuzz: I don't know you, so it's hard for me to say.

hotwheel: Great point. Thank you.

Juggling Jason said...

Good point Tan. What is 2 + 2? Answer: Google it.

BTW, did you change your e-mail address?

Tanner Christensen said...

Nope, I haven't changed my email Jason. You can expect a reply this evening. Thank you!

danbodd said...

I think that its diffiult to label Google as wrong or right.
Surely the sites it brings up in its search results should be judged more.
If somemone is looking for information on say Pathology and the top result is from the Royal Institue of Pathologists, surely the information is more reputable than if the top result is a Wiki written by Joe Bloggs who's mum happened to work in a hospital.. back in 1986..
The rise of Web2.0 and user edited content hasnt helped, but agreed, people are taking what the 'internet' says for granted However, I wouldn't call anyone an expert unless they had experience or academic qualifications in their field, regardless of whether they got their info from the Google, the local library or from someone else.