In elementary school I worried about discrete facts. I had to memorize the preamble of the United States Constitution, and recall that “in the year 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” In high school, I worried less about discrete facts. I focused on being a better writer and thinker, however, I could still name all of the elements on the periodic table. In college, as an education major, I rarely bothered to even do assigned readings, and instead focused on debating with professors about their ideas. I finished with an A average.
This progression — from a focus on rote memorization to a focus on playing with ideas — relates not only to my change in perspective from youth to adulthood, but also to how the internet has changed my thinking. Today I work as a software engineer. I have to study and be aware of thousands of discrete facts. Yet the hardest and most important part of the job is the need for deep analytical thinking and reasoning. Debugging a complex system or implementing a sophisticated algorithm requires understanding that can’t be bought from scanning Wikipedia.
In today’s constantly connected world, I worry less and less about details that are a google search away, and instead try to refine my critical thinking abilities. The internet has changed the way I think by changing my priorities.
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