Arts and Architecture

Is the Internet making us more curious?
Answered by Rick Smolan, Bran Ferren and 1 other
  • Rick Smolan

    Rick Smolan

  • Bran Ferren

    Bran Ferren

  • iO Tillett Wright

    iO Tillett Wright

  1. Rick Smolan Photographer


    I have two children. Phoebe, my daughter, has just turned 11, and my son, Jessie, is 8. And, like most parents, we're always talking about things with our kids.

    When I was growing up and I was curious about something -- my mother was a librarian -- I remember she'd write it on a little file card. The next time we went to the library, we would then try to find a book that had probably been printed five years before; and it was tedious, almost burdensome. "Oh, God, I have to go to the library and look this stuff up."

    Now, there's this great sense of fun. It's like, "Why are most orange cats male?" "I don't know. Let's find out. Let's go to the Internet." You type it in, you get lots of bad answers, but your curiosity is rewarded immediately. And it's not just one answer; you still have to sift amongst it, so it's still a creative act of understanding. But it rewards you for being curious. And then you're more curious because it's like, "That's so cool. What else can we find out?"

    I have to think that my kids' brains are different in the world that we live in today than the brains that we all grew up in. The world is so completely different -- this access to information, this immediate gratification where it's fun instead of tedious.

    And, unfortunately, I don't think a lot of our schools have caught onto this. I think our schools are still using this old rote approach to teaching and learning that I think takes a lot of the joy and the fun out of it. I think a lot of kids have much more fun learning from the Internet -- good and bad -- than they do at school. There's going to be a merging of these two worlds, of this concept of education -- sitting in neat little rows, quietly, passively being given information. But I just love what the Internet represents and the potential of it for little minds like my kids'.

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  2. Bran Ferren Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Applied Minds


    What was important about the development of technologies that lead to the evolution of what we call now the Internet, the Web, etc., search engines. Search engines weren't important in my first order because they allowed you to find things. Because they allowed you to find things, it caused people to publish. Prior to that, the model was you had to advertise. So if you put a little Web site together -- which is just about your personal interest, whether it's horticulture, stamps, travel, whatever -- unless you had a way to be discovered, you would have to do what every other business had to do in the past: put up billboards, advertise, do things like that.

    Well, the notion of search meant someone who happens to be interested in something, which you share an interest in, is likely to discover your creation because they're searching -- and of course, you want to make your creation, so that it is likely to be discovered. These things feed upon each other.

    So we get this astonishing thing called the World Wide Web, which you can argue was not based on a particularly impressive technological platform. There were many better models of how you would do things, but what it did was provide an easy and simple way for people to publish, tell stories to each other, and with the addition of search engines, get found. And now, the deficiencies in the technology are fixed by a variety of add-ons, replacements, etc. Why is this important?

    And incidentally, from an importance of invention, I would argue the idea of ubiquitously connected networked computers capable of doing storytelling, to people, is the most important invention since language. Language was critical in the evolution of our species because it enabled person-to-person interoperability that caused us to build society, and it caused us to build cities and villages.

    We were wandering around the countryside before that, but we learned to live together and share ideas, and literature was developed and a whole collection of other things, but the fundamental enabler was storytelling and finding a way to get you, who grew up in one part of the world, and me, who grew up in another part of the world, to talk to each other. Without a standardized intercommunication scheme called language, we would have no ability to do that. Okay, reading and writing took a while. That was a notion of taking storytelling and making those stories permanent.

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  3. iO Tillett Wright Artist, Photographer

    100%. It's allowing us to access, Google, Wikipedia, and instantly know so much more about things we'd never have dreamed of exploring before. It's all just a click away, all the knowledge of the ages.

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