Critical Thinking on The Internet can Change the World!

Critical Thinking on The Internet can Change the World!

After reading the paper by Elder and Paul critical thinking titled “The Thinker’s Guide to Analytic Thinking,” I came away with some thoughts on critical thinking and some of the elements of the critical thinking process which might be: definition of purpose, framing within context-point of view, illumination of assumptions, implications-consequences, data-facts-experiences, inferences-judgments, concepts-theories, and answers to questions/recommendations (Elder, L., Paul, R., 2007).

Critical Thinking

I was thinking on the Internet today while there is some amazing thinking going on and wonderful communities developing; we all could benefit by greater levels of critical thinking on-line.

I like the idea of greater integration of critical thinking into the online world in general, and I think the possibilities for knowledge growth and value creation are tremendous. In many cases on the Internet because getting lots of eyes on your content equates to monetary gain, I wonder if critical thinking is not really at the forefront of people’s minds (especially in a day and age when so many people are simply trying to survive).

It follows that a guided critical thinking process in on-line communities might be an interesting idea that has the potential to raise the quality of the content on the Internet. Introducing artificial intelligence into on-line programming and using it to facilitate critical-thinking processes is a fascinating, powerful and very scary possibility.

Artificially Intelligent computer programs could encourage a greater level of critical-thinking instead of emotional based responses on the Internet, but these processes might also have the potential to be influenced in a negative way by the bot-masters who run them. On-line automated “bots” flying around the Internet have the potential for evil or good. Artificially intelligent critical thinking engines” might facilitate good on-line thinking and better content. The training of on-line facilitators to encourage critical thinking might also be a great direction for us to go in.

Here is the outstanding paper by Elder and Paul, “The Thinker’s Guide to Analytic Thinking.”

I also think Benjamin Franklin was a great critical thinker ahead of his time, his principles include:

  • Conversations purpose is to “give or receive information, attain truth or enjoyment.”
  • Conversations are not debates
  • “Humility is a necessary means to our conversation ends of truth and enjoyment”
  • Listening closely and “well” to others
  • Modestly in expression, accepting we might be wrong
  • Looking for truth in others beliefs and expressions

(Warren, Dona., (2012), Benjamin Franklin on Thinking Well with Others)


Check out the Dona Warren presentation on Benjamin Franklin here.

These are outstanding and each express some element of critical thinking. I admire and respect Franklin for his relentless search for ways to improve himself and his unceasing pursuit of these wonderful principles.

Finally I leave you with a definition of critical thinking which I came up with as part of an excellent course at Excelsior University:

An active process which synergistically combines: investigative thinking, challenging of accepted assumptions, use of deep cognitive thinking processes-learned-skill-sets, reflecting of contextual points-of-view to arrive at a decision which is logical, beneficial to self and others, and supportable by scholarly researched references and resources.

Happy Critical Thinking to us All!

Christopher C. Welber


Warren, Dona., (2012), Benjamin Franklin on Thinking Well with Others,, retrieved

from the Internet on 1-10-2014:

Elder, L., Paul, R., (2007). The Thinker’s Guide to Analytic Thinking, ISBN 0-944-583-19-9



  1. I whole-heartedly agree that a guided critical thinking process in online communities would have the potential to raise the quality of Internet content. But I think we’d be playing with real fire if we allowed artificially Intelligent computer programs to drive it. You’re right about the potentially negative impact impact of the bot-masters who would run them: as you said, very scary.

    I vote for stronger critical thinking, higher-level thinking, and more refined thinking in creating and developing Internet content. And I vote for your idea of trained online facilitators who encourage a structured process of critical thinking, which has valuable possibilities.

    Keep thinking well.

    1. I agree Ken! I think too much automation makes cyber-life too impersonal. Maybe it would be interesting to develop an on-line community with the critical thinking wheel available to guide posters, but not overly influence.

  2. I like the article, Chris. Interesting you should mention critical thinking, much of which, sadly, I’ve not adhered to o’er the years. It’s said an old dog can’t be taught new tricks–however, I shall try.
    To that end, in addition to my attendance at the Kabbalah Centre, I’m now enrolled as a student at New York’s ‘School Of Practical Philosophy’ — I’ll include a link at the end of this communication, of course. The first intro class (10 in all) got my attention: as “homework” we were asked to be attentive during the week and to ask ourselves during these mini “forks in the road” — or decisions, if you prefer, what would a WISE person do. Here’s the link, and I’ll CU no doubt at the usual location when the weather warms up a bit. Cold & I do NOT go well together.

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