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Is Google Killing Wonder?

“I wonder.” How often you have made this simple statement? I’m going to guess quite frequently. How often have you heard it from others? I’ll bet even more often. Anytime an interesting question is asked, “I wonder” seems to naturally appear in our psyches. It’s only two words, yet those two words are far more powerful than you may realize.

What makes wonder such a powerful force? It is the wellspring from which engaged and expansive thinking emerges. Curiosity, an essential source of intellectual inquiry, is piqued. Your mental gears start turning and your synapses begin firing. You feel excitement and an urge to know more. Curiosity propels you to seek out an answer.

You examine different facets of the question and explore its depths. If you’re with others, you may argue, disagree, and in the end, find consensus or clash vehemently. All of which catalyze new iterations of the question and new roads to explore as you further ponder the question.

You theorize positive answers to the question. You question the question, wondering if other questions are more relevant. You express skepticism of answers that are proffered.

You think creatively and innovatively. You have an insight and maybe even an epiphany.

And, at the end of this intellectual and intuitive journey, you make a discovery that may be new only to you or that may change the world. In either case, it is as if a seed that was planted by “I wonder.” grows and blossoms into the most beautiful flower you have ever seen.

But stop!

None of this will happen if you or someone you are with blurts out the ultimate intellectual and creative buzzkill: “Let’s Google it!” In a millisecond, the answer to the question appears and any further conversation ceases immediately. Yes, you may have gotten the answer to your question, and wasn’t that so nice and tidy. But, at what cost? The question, and any conversation or subsequent mental gymnastics that it might have generated, dies an immediate and unfortunate death. At the very moment that “Let’s Google it!” is uttered, the life of the seed that may have bloomed into a stimulating discussion, or maybe even a new and “rock our world” idea, withers away.

Okay, I will concede that it is possible that learning the answer from an Internet search might actually inspire further thinking and discussions, but that’ hasn’t been my experience.

The Internet has brought us a universe of information when we want it with minimal effort. Now isn’t that a blessing? In many ways, yes it is. We can learn about anything just by turning to our smartphones, tablets, or computers. There’s no doubt that there is practical utility in having this wealth of information at our fingertips, for example, looking up directions, finding a recipe, or planning a vacation.

At the same time, Googling it can be the path of least resistance. It’s just too easy, it’s intellectually lazy. When it comes to ideas, it neither inspires nor challenges us. Information can be useful, but it can also put our thinking in a box. And don’t forget that the search results that appear aren’t random or necessarily accurate.

Sure, we have more information, but information alone has limited value, even less so when it isn’t allowed to grow into knowledge, insight, and wisdom. And this evolution can only occur if we are given the time, space, and uncertainty to allow a question or idea to grow and flourish in our minds or within a group. The effortless availability of information becomes akin to fast food for the mind: readily obtained, immediately gratifying, but ultimately unnourishing.

What are the consequences of ideas never seeing the light of day? What happens when ideas are stifled by too much information? How many important ideas would be lost before they even have time to take root? What impact will the immediacy of information have on future creativity, innovation, and progress? All for the loss of a two-word statement.

Okay, if you want to do an Internet search to find the closest Thai restaurant, that’s fine. But, the next time a really intriguing question comes up that causes you to say “I wonder.” and someone responds with an enthusiastic “Let’s Google it!”, tell them, “No thanks. I would rather just wonder.”

Google, Internet, search, Bing, information, Big Data, wonder, innovation, creativity, thinking, ideas

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