Is Your CTO Making You Stupid?

Nicholas Carr writes in ways that makes people think.  I really enjoyed reading his latest in the Atlantic titled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" This article covers some rather significant trends that IT is pushing into the global social fabric.  The changes he talks about are disturbing.  They are infecting people like a fast spreading disease.

There is a chance you are suffering some of these symptoms yourself, so by all means read the article.

Or if your attention span is going, here is how Nicholas Carr describes the symptoms :

" Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle. "

I hope you dive deep into the Carr article for more details, but if you have the disease yourself you might not.  So here is a gist of key points:

  • Google and others have made research simple and fast and easy.
  • Almost all data can come into your head via your browser.
  • People read fewer (or no) books.
  • People are loosing the ability to read and retain info from long articles.
  • The Internet, through your browser, is the medium of choice.  Newspapers and print are on the out.  TV is heading out fast.
  • We also write through the web, and that is changing the way we think.
  • We too frequently are relying on computers to mediate our understanding of the world.

What do we do with this cautionary info?  One immediate think all of us should do is remember to carve out time in the day, every day, to read, write and think.

But if you are an enterprise technologist you should also consider what this means for you and your organization.  Some ideas:

  • The systems you are designing, developing and fielding to your workforce may serve your workforce better if their interfaces are more intuitive and less textual.  People will want to interface with enterprise systems they way they interface with the Internet (present your applications through browsers and summarize results and seek rapid human feedback on what they like or don't like about the results).
  • To the greatest extent possible, build systems that present fast results.
  • And present information in ways that let humans interact with it.
  • And present information in ways that ensure the humans are in charge of the process and in charge of assessing the relevance of results.
  • Don't stop innovating.
  • Stay on the net yourself so you can track where it is going.
  • Get engaged in social media (if you are not already).  That means Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, and Twitter (especially Twitter-- it really changes your mind).
  • Translate those many lessons into the enterprise technology you field.

If you can do that and if you can stay focused on the mission all your users will thank you, and in many ways I think you will be helping make your organization smarter.  If you don't do that then the odds are great that you will just be part of the noise.   You may even be contributing to making your organzation stupid.

Any thoughts/comments/suggestions on that topic?

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Bob Gourley

Founder and CTO at Crucial Point LLC
Bob Gourley is the founder and CTO of Crucial Point LLC where he leads technology due diligence consulting. He is the publisher of CTOvision.com and ThreatBrief.com. Bob's background is as an all source intelligence analyst and an enterprise CTO. Find him on Twitter at @BobGourley
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