Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why blogging is a good way to learn

As both a student and a young individual, I rely on the internet for a lot of the information I learn. I almost never think to browse my bookshelf or invest in an encyclopedia set when I'm looking for answers to questions. (Haha physical encyclopedias.) The Internet is essentially a gateway to the vast accumulation of human knowledge.

Now there has been a lot written about the affects of the new information age. Some think us youngsters don't think anymore and use the Internet like information-hungry parasites. Others think unlimited access to the Internet will lead to super brilliant children. And a lot of people are in the middle.

My fear is that we are breeding a new generation of Google Intellectuals.*

Allow me to explain. Young people are plugged into the Internet all the time. And use the Internet to learn and answer questions. In fact - I would argue that we use it so much, that we often forget that we might already have the tools to answer the question. We're becoming so dependent that we don't really need to use in-depth thinking to answer uncomplicated questions.

Of course, one could argue that not having to know the easy stuff just gives us more time to focus on more complex questions. It's kind of like saying that advanced math students can use calculators to focus on the theoretical topics.

That could be an answer, but I think it's a weak one.

Here's what I'm trying to get at - younger generations need to understand the value of consuming information more rigorously. (Using more System 2 in Kahneman's jargon.) We're so quick to gobble up random facts throughout the day, that we don't really take time to connect what we "learn" to the broader picture.

I think blogging helps you with that process. When blogging (especially about economics) you are forced to sit down and write about what you are learning. Often times you're even connecting different articles that you've read (through linking) to make a bigger point. This is especially true when you are writing about things that you care about.

Now that's how we should be learning!

Now does that mean that everyone should start blogging? Probably not. It requires a lot of patience and time, and a lot of people have neither. But taking the time to sit down, think, and write about a few topics will make you a much smarter person than Googling 100 different things a day.

*Google Intellectual (n) - a seemingly intelligent individual who accumulates their knowledge from random internet queries


  1. Hi Frank,

    Presumably, you've read "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr? If not, do. There's a very interesting chapter about how Google is affecting thinking patterns. I don't know if I buy Carr's entire argument, but it is at least interesting.

    - Evan Soltas

  2. Evan,

    I haven't read the book itself, but I've read other snippets by Carr. Yes, that's part of what I'm getting at. I think blogging is a good way of integrating critical thinking and the enormous amounts of information we come across with every day.

    Karl Smith had a pretty cool idea about allowing students to blog for academic credit: