Many new technologies, such as search engines, have made an incredible variety of information available to more people than ever before. This information includes ideas and data that may have only been available to a select few, and only under particular circumstances. I believe human thought and creativity requires a stimulus. Even the most talented artists must have inspiration in order to produce there works. On this line, I argue that the increased relance on technology our society has experienced has benefited our ability to think for ourselves.
In the same fashion that the artist requires inpiration for their pieces, everyone requires a base of knowledge on which to build ideas and form opinions. The availability of more ideas and opinions faciliates this goal. Those who would never have been able to physically visit a large library now have access to their contents, and much more. Perhaps the more priviledged members of society, in terms of economic stability and access to these resources, have not seen a drastic increase in availability of knowledge, but this is surely not the case for the disadvantaged.
Citizens of developing countries now have access to a wealth of knowledge and ideas, allowing and stimulating personal thought and improvement. For example, a Saharan farmer with access to the internet may research and utilize decades of research in botany and farming to improve his or her own crop. Thinkers and philosophers may also explore a vast array of ideologies and perspectives with ease, leading to beneficial societal movements and changes.
All of these benefits hinge on an assumption on human nature; one that may not hold true for all people. I am assuming that humans will strive to self improve and explore, rather than towards what is familar and stable. Technology allows everyone to share opposing opinions, but also to reinforce those opinions already held. If we don't push ourselves to explore other ideas, we may instead seek to reinforce current views. In this case, technology can deteriorate the ability of humans to think for themselves.
This type of "feed back loop" does not lend itself to the exploration of new ideas and encouragement of thinking for one's self. In this case, the technology user enters a monoculture. Even if the user does not hold the majority's views, if they don't seek out and expose themselves to other ideas, they may begin to believe that other perspectives do not exist. In this case, they are likely to join the majority in whatever opinion is commonly held, regardless of whether the opinion or ideology is destructive or counter productive to personal or societal improvement.
Nonetheless, I will label myself an optimist and say that I do not believe the majority of the population behaves this way. I have had discussions with friends and family about ideas that we would have never been exposed to without the facilation of technology. Likewise, I have seen evidence of societal movements both domestic and abroad that started from ideas acquired through the internet. Though the possibility of free thought deteroriation is possible, I believe that the the benefits offered by technology outweight the risk.
This was an interesting practice prompt I came across for the GRE