The Internet as Cognitive Enhancement


Voinea, C., Mihailov, E., Savulescu, J. and Vica, C., (2020), 'The Internet as Cognitive Enhancement', Science and Engineering Ethics, Vol: 26(4): 2345–2362 [PMC7417391]


The Internet has been identified in human enhancement scholarship as a powerful cognitive enhancement technology. It offers instant access to almost any type of information, along with the ability to share that information with others. The aim of this paper is to critically assess the enhancement potential of the Internet. We argue that unconditional access to information does not lead to cognitive enhancement. The Internet is not a simple, uniform technology, either in its composition, or in its use. We will look into why the Internet as an informational resource currently fails to enhance cognition. We analyze some of the phenomena that emerge from vast, continual fluxes of information–information overload, misinformation and persuasive design—and show how they could negatively impact users’ cognition. Methods for mitigating these negative impacts are then advanced: individual empowerment, better collaborative systems for sorting and categorizing information, and the use of artificial intelligence assistants that could guide users through the informational space of today’s Internet.


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This paper has been made Open Access under Wellcome Trust grant WT203132, Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities

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