CogniFit's Science blog: The “One-Click” Generation

The “One-Click” Generation

There has never existed so much knowledge, and so easily available, than today. Knowledge is at a distance of a click. This is in no way a cliché. It is extremely easy to ask any question, look for it on Google, Wikipedia or another source, and get it.

And yet, there is a rising concern that too much information, or too much knowledge, so widely and easily available, may actually be a negative factor in the human being’s cognitive development. Why is that so?

The internet has changed the way we perceive, capture and store our knowledge. Very simple tasks such as opening a book, an encyclopedia for instance, to look for a term, a definition, is something few people do nowadays. Having a big bookshelf at home to store complete encyclopedias is no longer a concern unless there is a specific need to have a major encyclopedia brand (Britannica for example) available. And even in that case, it is available online, so what’s the point of having the paper?

There is however a fundamental difference between “availability of knowledge” and the “vehicle of transmission”. The fact that something is available doesn’t necessarily mean it will be used or learnt. This is in no way advocating one or the other option; it just is a fact that is different to learn from a book than to learn from a website. The distractions and attention to learning are different. While reading a book the concentration on the reading is easier than while reading a website – the options to click again on a certain topic give an easy excuse to stop reading an article and start reading another one.

On the other hand, the “one-click” knowledge provides an immense advantage compared to the old ways. On a certain topic of interest, it is possible to have not only written information, but also specifics about certain subtopics, multimedia resources. With the right concentration it is possible to learn more and quicker over the internet. It is also much easier to get to the detail of specific questions but accurately using the search tools.

Coming back to the initial question, is the “one-click generation” suffering from cognitive development? It’s probably easier to answer differently. Today the human being has a lower need of cognition to survive (which is an extremely disastrous incentive for lazyness). However, the same human being has a need for a much higher cognitive development if he or she wants to be successful. The “one-click era” is creating clearly two groups, the ones who use the advanced resources of the internet as an enabler (not as a substitute), and the ones who rely on those resources to avoid challenging their brains. Needless to say, the second group will be at severe risk of brain disorders in the future.