Why nothing is as dumb as the internet


1st Jan 2015 Technology

Why nothing is as dumb as the internet

Let's face it: nothing is as dumb as the internet. Which is pretty strange, considering the brainpower behind it. Millions and millions of hours of intense labor by some of the most intelligent people in the world have combined to produce a communication network unparalleled in human experience. Things we once saw only in movies - video phones, touch screens, instantaneous digital transmission across massive distances - we now see every day.

So what do we do with this incredible technology?

We do the stupidest stuff imaginable. At the popular social networking site Reddit, one user posed a question:

If someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared … what would be the most difficult thing to explain about life today?

Among the top-rated answers:

I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.


Admit it: if you've used the Internet, you've used it for dumb stuff!

You've looked at silly pictures. You've forwarded terrible jokes. You've wasted hours and hours and hours and hours. According to one recent survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, three-quarters of the people who go online use the Internet “just for fun.” They're goofing around, and so are you.


At one point or another, you've probably felt kind of bad about this.

You were watching videos of skateboarding dogs and falling-down brides when you should have been working or cleaning or picking up your mother at the airport. You felt pretty stupid yourself. “How could I have gotten so distracted?” you ask. “Why was it so important to me to click on just one … more … link?”


Relax: science has the answer

It turns out that you're just trying to survive

Our brains are wired to deliver bursts of chemical pleasure when we discover new stuff. It's an evolutionary thing. Back in our caveman days, the people with best chance of survival were the ones willing to look under every single rock to see if there was anything tasty to eat—or anything nasty that needed killing.

People who didn't look under every rock either missed some meals or turned into meals themselves.


Enter the internet

So we all ended up with these busy brains—and then along comes the Internet, which is like an endless room full of boxes marked, “Surprise inside!” Once we walk into that room, we find it biologically impossible to stop opening the boxes. And even if what's inside is really stupid, it's the thrill of the hunt that grabs us.

So next time you kill off an afternoon online, remember, you're not being dumb—you're protecting the species.

But likewise, be sure to watch your step. Whether you're texting or sharing or talking to the tech-support guys about how your computer's cup holder is broken, never forget that the next dumb thing everybody laughs at online could be you.