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Will access to information make us dumber?

Created: 19 Jun 2012
Sarah Whipp's picture
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My friend has a sister who is a digital native. She is online from as soon as she wakes through to the moment she sleeps, across a plethora of platforms that seem incredible to a digital immigrant like myself who needs a vitamin injected smoothie before I can think in the morning. My friend’s sister, like other digital natives, can keep up with all of her friends at all times and a strange phenomenon has occurred, she has stopped asking questions about their lives, she doesn’t need to, she believes everything worth knowing will be delivered to her via social media. Talking at work with my colleague @RPMol he sees a world where a doctor could use big data analytics to cross tabulate a patient’s test results with others globally to get instance diagnosis of even the rarest of illnesses. This amazing world sounds utopian to someone who grew up in a working class northern area with access to the best books the town library could offer regardless of their date of publication or succession, and a phone line we shared with our neighbours; let alone a medical student volunteering in remote conditions in the harshest of environments. But it does show a darker underbelly that we are beginning to see via the tweets of celebrity, professional and student alike. Are we heading towards a world with a greater predilection for more answers than questions?

At it’s best Twitter invites the highest form ofquestioning, a thought provoking query in 140 characters that can lead to debate and intellectual growth. At it’s worst we are merely informed of someone’s carrots boiling over, but how to cut through this information to find out if a friend is happy or sad without them having to change their status?Will society break into two, those that ask questions and seek debate v those who inform and expect to be informed? Will my friend’s sister really know what is going on, or just what others want her to know? And will the Doctor remember to ask the question, where does it hurt?

The bigger question for us as we employ more and more digital natives is to understand which category our employees fit into and making sure the job is appropriate to the skill. How do we change our interviewing approach not to ascertain those with the right answers but more those with the right questions?