Is Google making us dumber?


This week, Stella presented on whether Google is making us dumber, which led to a rather intensive discussion. It was nice to hear everyone’s opinions. Unfortunately, due to time constraints i could not share all my views, so i thought I would share my opinion in this post.


I think it depends on what you mean by “dumber”. Does “dumber” mean the lack of knowledge? But how can it be when Google provides us with a wealth of information? You can learn about almost everything on Google, from Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity to cooking the perfect hard-boiled egg. Some people would even say Google is the fountain of knowledge.


However, if by “dumber” you mean the dulling of one’s level of thinking due to over-reliance on Google, then yes, I suppose it does makes us “dumber”. For example, I know this person, who shall be called Bob for the purpose of this example, who googles even the simplest of questions, like what is 99 minus 12. I mean that is an easy question for most people and by most people I mean 99.79% of people. But instead of mentally working out the equation, he does the lazy thing and Googles it. When we over-rely on Google like this, we condition ourselves not to think on our own.


Thus, I think the difference is how you see and use Google. I see Google as a tool to find specific information that would otherwise take my days to find if I used books as my only resource. For example, if I want to find how a zipper works, i just typed that in and Google gives the relevant links and previews an excerpt of the resource to help me decide whether it is really relevant. However, if i were to use books, I would have to screen through clothing, fabric and invention books that may not even have the answer because the scope of the book may not cover how zippers work. That said, I still learn and get information from other sources like newspapers and books.


I think the important thing is that you are in control of Google and not the other way around. What do you think?


Virtual Environment+ Physical Environment= Augmented Reality

The future is scary. But I’ll let you decide whether it’s scary good or scary bad. Check out the video below.


This technology is called “Augmented Reality”. Basically the idea of augmented reality is to fuse a virtual environment with our physical environment. Ok cool you say, so besides feeling like you are in a Sci-Fi movie, what’s the point. Well, the possibilities are endless. One use that speaker, Pattie Mays, pointed out is that augmented reality, when integrated to our lives can provide us with information to make more informed decisions.


More on that later. First, here are 3 trends that I think  could develop with augmented reality.

1. Bands playing live without “real” instruments

-no need to worry about some drunk guy spilling beer over your equipment. wait… what equipment?

From the crowd's perspective

From the crowd's perspective


2. Rise in world’s happiness level

-feeling down? feel like the whole world is against you? why not turn your frown upside down by turning theirs upside down!

Happy Vision

Happy Vision


3. Drop in global obesity rate

with augmented reality gaming, experience Counterstrike & DOTA as if  you are in the game. So what are you waiting for? Get off your bum and start playing!

Augmented reality gaming

Augmented reality gaming


Okay back to the video. I’m sure we will agree that “The Sixth Sense” device is pretty cool. I mean, being able to see information about a product just by letting the device detect it. Are you kidding me?! Say goodbye to having to research on a particular product before you buy it. I thought the book example from the video was impressive. The front cover gives you an Amazon review (don’t know how credible that is though, see my previous blogpost “Wisdom Of The Crowd- Individual Stupidity= Collective Intelligence” to see what i mean), turning the page gives you reader comments and even annotations.


However, there was one part that scared me, as in scary bad. It’s the part when you can see a word cloud of a person. I feel uneasy because people can form impressions of you just by your online word cloud. I mean i know that the Internet is a public space and not my private space but you wouldn’t normally google every single person you meet to get a sense of what that person is like right? We all know first impressions are important  and I just think this technology just makes it harder to give a good first impression. Well, in any case, we must remember the importance of controlling what we say and do both online and offline. You don’t want people to blog about you in a negative light. Imagine going for a job interview and your boss seeing ‘backstabber” in your word cloud.


All in all, i think the good in augmented reality outweighs the bad.  So i pick scary good. What do you pick?


Wisdom Of The Crowd- Individual Stupidity= Collective Intelligence?

This week I learnt about something called “wisdom of the crowd”. It suggests that an estimate or opinion a crowd makes is more accurate than one made by an individual. I thought Vera and Viha did a great job illustrating that theory with their jelly-bean experiment. Basically, they picked Messiah to estimate how many jelly beans were in the container and compared it with the collective estimate of the rest of the class. The crowd/class won.


I was pretty intrigued by the concept of it to say the least. I mean my personal estimate was about 30 jelly beans off the answer and some of the estimates by my other classmates were pretty far off as well. How did our individual stupidity result in collective intelligence? Then i had an epiphany, the fairly accurate result was due to the canceling out of under-estimates and over-estimates by members of the crowd. Then the people who came close to the answer helped to make the collective estimate more accurate.


So how can wisdom of the crowd help in situations other than estimating the number of jellybeans in a container? Vera gave an example of wisdom of the crowd helping in consumer-related situations in the form of Amazon. As you probably know, Amazon gives you recommended products that are derived from what other like-minded users like. Google and social bookmarking site, Digg use wisdom the crowd to gauge the relevance of websites to a search term and the popularity of a particular link, respectively.


However, don’t take just take whatever appears at the top of Digg’s homepage as representative of what the “crowd” thinks. I put crowd in open inverted commas because sometimes the crowd is not really the crowd. I found an article that challenges the credibility of the “crowd.”



Basically, what it says is that the research findings showed that a small group of users accounted for a large number of ratings. That means, small but powerful groups can easily distort what the “crowd” really thinks, leading online reviews to often end up appearing extremely positive or extremely negative.


That has some serious implications, I mean it completely shatters the common perception that online reviews are more objective and therefore more credible. But if groups can distort what is thought to be the majority’s opinion, then we have a scary problem. Who knows, companies may start using these groups as a marketing tool in the future. Who knows, they might be already using it.


I think this is scarier than the influence of opinion leaders in say a forum because users can somewhat determine the credibility of the opinion leader better by checking the consistency of his posts.  But this is different because people are under the premise that it is the opinion of many individuals, therefore not being able to discern whether the crowd’s opinion is distorted or not.


For me the solution is to find a reliable way to aggregate the opinions. What do you think?

A Social Minion

The world is changing whether you like it or not. And its changing fast. I think that’s the most important lesson that I’ve learnt so far in NCT.


I think social networking is a great idea. It allows you to keep in contact with people you don’t see on a day-to-day basis. It gives you another platform to communicate with your friends. But what I did not see was why you need so many social networking platforms. “i’ve already got Facebook, why would i need Twitter (which is essentially a Facebook status update)?”.


Well after meditating and fasting for a week, I realised Twitter and Facebook has different functions, so to speak. Twitter’s purpose is to provide timely updates, be it breaking news or whatever your friend is doing now. And Twitter helps you do that by allowing you to integrate Twitter with your computer (Tweet Deck) and with your mobile phone (gladlycast).


But wait you say, Facebook CAN do that too right? True. But Facebook is more of a general social networking platform. I see Twitter more as an information feed, based on their simple text-based interface as opposed to Facebook, where you can view photos, videos and play games. It is very useful to have gatekeeper like bbcbreaking, cnnbrk or even someone GuyKawasaki who gives you interesting information which adds value. This is the part i feel Twitter-ers need to learn. Tweeting “I am on the bus home now” everyday doesn’t add much value to anyone. Really. It doesn’t. I mean it doesn’t have to be something big like there was an accident at blah blah blah but even stuff like “I’m so glad i passed my test i’ve been studying so hard for.” adds value to person reading it as he/she feels happy for that person or something like that. Bad example, i know. HAHA.


Mini-rant aside, Twitter is a useful tool to create an online presence for yourself. Why is that important? Well, in some cases, it could mean whether you have a job or not. 😉


Another thing i learnt in week 1 was WordPress. My previous attempt to keep a blog lasted just 3 posts. Well 2, if you count my first post which was,

Pray that i will continue to update this blog. Amen”

its if you are interested. Please leave a comment on my tagboard, its been 3 years since someone posted. LOL.

My perspective of a blog then was “write about your interesting life”. The thing was nothing really interesting happened in secondary school and if there was, i was too busy having fun and not blogging. However, there was something a certain lecturer said about blogs this sem which totally changed my perspective. Something to the tune of,

“Blogs are tools to brand yourself”

I guess the fact that i’m older now and that the reality of me joining the workforce is getting closer and that the reality of companies wanting people who are well-versed in social media helped to drive home the message that the world is changing fast and it doesn’t wait for anybody. So you either keep up or lose out (like a job).

So ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the newest social minion.


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