Does the internet make you smarter?

The majority of respondents for a new online survey said the internet would improve reading and writing by 2020, according to the study, conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University in North Carolina and the Pew Internet and American Life project.

“Three out of four experts said our use of the Internet enhances and augments human intelligence, and two-thirds said use of the Internet has improved reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge,” said study co-author Janna Anderson, director of the Imagining the Internet Center.

But 21 per cent said the internet would have the opposite effect and could even lower the IQs of some who use it a lot.

“There are still many people … who are critics of the impact of Google, Wikipedia and other online tools,” she said.

The web-based survey gathered opinions from scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers, along with Internet users screened by the authors. Of the 895 people surveyed, 371 were considered “experts.”

It was prompted in part by an August 2008 cover story in the Atlantic Monthly by technology writer Nicholas Carr headlined: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

Carr suggested in the article that heavy use of the Web was chipping away at users’ capacity for concentration and deep thinking. Carr, who participated in the survey, told the authors he still agreed with the piece.

“What the ‘Net does is shift the emphasis of our intelligence away from what might be called a meditative or contemplative intelligence and more toward what might be called a utilitarian intelligence,” Carr said in a release accompanying the study. “The price of zipping among lots of bits of information is a loss of depth in our thinking.”

But Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said, “People are already using Google as an adjunct to their own memory.

“For example, I have a hunch about something, need facts to support and Google comes through for me,” he said in the release.

The survey also found that 42 per cent of experts believed that anonymous online activity would be “sharply curtailed” by 2020, thanks to tighter security and identification systems, while 55 per cent thought it would still be relatively easy to browse the internet anonymously in 10 years.


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Twitter dating for tech-savvy singles

Hundreds of singles attended the first Flitter parties across Canada last week in the latest dating game which is a play on words of the microblogging site Twitter and flirting.

Each guest wore a white sticker with a number and gazed closely at their iPhones and Blackberrys in a dimly lit room in Toronto, their thumbs tapping away at their mobile devices on Twitter.

They were Flittering and trying to catch the attention of other tweeters who were flying solo on the eve of Valentine’s Day.

“#129, you’re so fine, but #152, you’re hot too. Man oh man, what will #72 do?” tweeted one guest as the comment showed up on a giant projector screen set up inside the venue.

Will Lam, a 27-year old banking professional and Twitter fanatic, attended the event because he was interested in seeing how Flitter worked.

“I was just wondering how they would leverage Twitter and facilitate interaction between people,” said Lam, who found the tweeting to be awkward and distracting in his attempts to strike up conversations with women.

“I actually tweeted #19 was really cute, but I can’t even find her anymore,” he said.

But Halley Trusler, a 23-year old event co-ordinator who recently moved to Toronto, found Flittering to be a great way to meet people.

“It allows people who are a little more shy to put themselves out there,” she said.

Trusler received plenty of tweets offering to buy her drinks and revealed she may have someone in mind by the end of the night.

The tweeter can choose to sign off with his, or her, assigned number or send an anonymous message or compliment. The recipient can respond and meet the tweeter if interested, or just read the anonymous compliment and move on.

All senders must end the tweet with the word “Flitterme.”

Justin Parfitt, founder and CEO of Fastlife, the Canadian-based dating service provider, originated Flitter singles events in Australia and introduced them to North America.

He thought there must be some way of getting people to interact using work devices, such as their Blackberrys or iPhones, to make people feel social as oppose to anti-social.

The Flitter parties, which were also held in Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal, were advertised on the Internet.


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