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The simplicity of Google makes people dumb

When graduate students at Tel Aviv University were asked to find on the Web, with no time limit, a picture of the Mona Lisa; the complete text of either "Robinson Crusoe" or "David Copperfield"; and a recipe for apple pie accompanied by a photograph, only 15 percent succeeded at all three assignments.

Edward Tenner of The NYTimes writes that many students seem to lack the skills to structure their searches so they can find useful information quickly on search engines like Google, Yahoo or even MSN.

In the good-old days of AltaVista, a searcher had to learn how to construct a search statement, like, say, "Engelbert Humperdinck and not Las Vegas" for the opera composer rather than the contemporary singer. It took practice to produce usable results. Google has changed the game.

Ed even dislikes the Google PageRank method. His argument: Instead of looking at which papers are cited most often in the most influential journals, it measures how often Web pages are linked to highly ranked sites - ranked by links to themselves.

As a solution, Ed would like Google himself to educate users about the power — and frequent advisability — of its advanced search options. It would be a shame if brilliant technology were to end up threatening the kind of intellect that produced it.

Read: Searching for Dummies - New York Times