Today I am going to make this a short and sweet review. Nicholas Carr has written a book called The Shallows: What The Internet is Doing To Our Brains. He is the author of the article Is Google Making us Stupid? which came out in The Atlantic in 2008.
The title of that article might make you think that he’s a shrill technophobe. But he’s not. Not in The Shallows, at least. It’s a fairly objective look at a man who simultaneously loves the Internet and has concerns about how it might be changing him. He states several times that he wouldn’t go back to life before the Web, but doesn’t pretend that all the changes are necessarily good.
The most fascinating part of the book for me is that the changes Carr is concerned with are physical in nature, not just a new set of behaviors that we reinforce through our actions.
Those new actions–think web surfing and clicking a zillion times on every page in place of reading a book that is hundreds of pages long–actually cut new grooves in our brains and reshape our neural pathways.
We get better at what we do, in other words. But not simply by reinforcing the habits–by changing how our brains work and what sorts of connections they are capable of.
If you feel like your attention span fades with every click, or that your memory has deteriorated since you began spending more time online, or that reading books is more difficult for you than it used to be–I think this book will give you a lot to think about.
It’s also a fairly easy read.
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