Internet usage allows me to know more but think less. Tweetage W@steland recently posted about his “head being in the cloud.” He tells the story of a young woman who got into a wreck and didn’t know the numbers of people to call because they were in the address book of her [now broken] phone.

Before feeling fully incredulous, the author realized he doesn’t keep in touch with friends who aren’t plugged into his digital lifestyle. His memory for things like keeping in touch with friends has been replaced by “the cloud.” I realize I don’t know the numbers or birthdays of some of my closest friends either.

(While I think this is a fabulous thing for events and obscure/arcane information, it starts to scare me a little when it infringes on relationships.)

In a rant questioning the value of textbooks (due to changing market conditions, out-dated information, and memorization in an Internet world), Seth Godin notes:

In a world of wikipedia, where every definition is a click away, it’s foolish to give me definitions to memorize.

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way we process and learn information, and the effects of that are still being explored. I am amazed at how often my wife and I turn to Wikipedia, IMDB, Wolfram Alpha,, etc for answers to questions that, even just a few years ago, would have required a trip to the local library, owning an encyclopedia set, or having an expert at your beckon call. Education (and other fields) have yet to fully realize the ramifications of ubiquitous knowledge and equal access. Minds should be taught how to use information more than just rote information itself.

There are, however, a few things that I think are still worth knowing:

  • vocabulary. You can’t always reference these, and like it or not, people judge by the words you use. Spelling would be on this list, but as more correspondence goes digital, it is less of an issue.
  • scripture (or other inspirational quotes/material if you’re not inclined that way). We all need good thoughts in our head.
  • a basic historical outline (I’m biased on this, but I think everyone ought to know at least a little bit about our country and its place in the world)
  • basic geographical information, like where the US is on a map and which states on are the west coast, and where China is.

There may be a few other things, but not many. We can be aware of more information, but let us never confuse that with being more intelligent or thinking more critically.