Lots of recent research findings have serious implications for how we remember information when we have the Internet (i.e. Google) at our fingertips. Having a regular and reliable source of external artifacts gives us a crutch, essentially using this “transactive memory” by remembering where something is rather than what it is. The results of all of these studies basically find that if we know a permanent record of something will be kept externally (in a computer we can access either locally or on the Internet, or even in an expert person that we trust), we use fewer resources to store it in our own personal memory (our heads). We just remember where to find it.
Some authors conclude that this makes our thinking more superficial because we don’t think about content, just location. Other authors conclude that this makes thinking deeper because we don’t think about details so we can think about implications. This is a really important difference. If one is right, the Internet is a good thing for learning and education. If the other is right, we could be starting a downward spiral to a society like the Eloi in the Time Machine.