Here is a very thought provoking post (sorry, article) by Bill Keller, executive editor of the NY Times. I especially like the historical perspective and connection to Gutenberg – something which is not debated or understood enough. We cannot really understand social media unless we also understand history, which is why I always begin my “What is social media?” presentations by looking back 600 years so that we can understand the extent to which our world has been shaped by the enforced marriage between information and expensive distribution technologies – a marriage which social media is ending (because media – the ability to distribute information – is no longer expensive and information is now liberated).
In much the same way as Keller highlights the cognitive trade-offs that have occurred as technology has developed (books effectively reducing our capacity to remember for example) it would seem logical that there will be some form of trade-off associated with social media. And it may well be that the trade-off is that collectively we become more intelligent and powerful, but individually we become more stupid. Perhaps it may be that stupid is not the word – rather we will become become more dependant – not just on the technology itself but the forms of community it is bringing into being. We become a bit of number of brains rather that a brain in itself. This may be a good thing, or it may not – but it important that we are aware that it is happening and adapt to its implications.