On the possible deleterious effects of knowledge management systems in law departments

A piece in the London Rev. of Books, March 3, 2011 at 11, wrestles with the claim of a recent book that over-use of the Internet robs us of intelligence, happiness, memory, and creativity. The reviewer disagrees regarding all but creativity. My reduction of his discussion goes toward mini-Internets: knowledge management systems in law departments.

If a law department pours much of its professionals’ learning into a retrievable database, will that over time dumb down them down? Creativity seems to consist of deep engrossment over time with a full stock of stored facts and frameworks. Out of that stew a mysterious bolt of neural lightening inspires a new idea.

If the Internet’s vast storage and instant retrieval atrophies these mental faculties because we ourselves don’t master the material and ponder it, even sub-consciously – a big if, according to the book reviewer – might the same degradation take place as law departments store more learning electronically than neurologically? The reviewer thinks that creativity, where cranial crumbs over time mold into new bread, suffers most from excessive reliance on the Internet, and perhaps a similar risk looms for KM systems.

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