The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains - Nicholas Carr

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

By Nicholas Carr

  • Release Date: 2011-06-06
  • Genre: Science & Nature
Score: 4
4
From 112 Ratings
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Description

Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction: “Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind.”—Michael Agger, Slate
“Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer—Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.

Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic—a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption—and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes—Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive—even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.

Reviews

  • How many are going to be able to read this book

    4
    By Fpiano
    Good as it is, it's very depressing. I believe you, but what to do?
  • A Must Read for Educators

    5
    By IT^2
    A clarion call to reverse course from the unquestioned use of assistive technologies in and out of the classroom to their carefully considered selective application. I have been increasingly troubled by trends in education like dropping handwriting; not requiring memorization; encouraging dependence on external information sources; and the tendency to teach to the test, providing a Cliff Notes version of topics without any deep exploration - all justified by claiming that computers and Google make such skills obsolete. I couldn't explain why these trends were troubling but knew there was something fundamentally wrong with them. After reading this book, I know what's wrong and why we need to carefully apply the tools we are being given. If you've been wondering about the impact of the integration of the Internet into our daily lives, this book is a must read that will help explain the changes that you may have noticed in how you think and work. If you haven't been wondering about these things, this book is a must read to sensitize you to the changes so that you can make informed decisions about balancing the benefits of the technologies you choose to adopt against their cognitive and social costs. There are costs involved with the acquisition and application of any technology. The Internet is no different - its costs just tend to be more subtle and better hidden than its gains. And while the gains may be bountiful, the costs may be devastating in ways that we are only now beginning to recognize. Carr calls out the dangers of confining ourselves to the intellectual and cognitive littorals required by dependence on connections to the Internet's information shores.