- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 July 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1848872275
- ISBN-13: 978-1848872271
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 79 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember Paperback – 1 Jul 2011
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Is the Internet making us stupid? In this new book, as incendiary as it is important, Nicholas Carr argues that the Internet is changing dramatically how we think, remember and interact.
About the Author
Nicholas Carr is the author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google. He is a contributor to the New York Times, Guardian, Financial Times and Wired and was formerly the executive editor of the Harvard Business Review. Nick blogs at www.roughtype.com
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Carr cites numerous persuasive neuroscientific studies to back up his thesis. And, of course, for me (in my 50s, all my education in pre-internet years, heavy user of the internet for the last 17 years), a lot of what he says rings true.
Like Carr, I became aware a few years ago that my ability to concentrate for long periods was not what it once was. I would start reading a book, or even a long section of text on the net, and my attention would begin to wander. I had become too accustomed to clicking on links, to watching TV with scrolling bars of text here and there, to having my attention pulled in several directions at once.
My kids slouch in front of the TV - partly watching the TV, partly looking at YouTube etc on their phones/tablets, conducting email/Facebook/text conversations with the friends, all at the same time. On the one hand, one can admire their multi-tasking skills but, as Carr points out, research evidence suggests that very little of the information being processed in this type of situation is ever stashed away in long-term memory. Perhaps this is not important for remembering what's on the TV, or what your friend is telling you via Facebook, but it's likely to be more important if you're doing your homework on the net, while listening to music, and checking your emails every five minutes, and responding to text messages, and monitory your twitter feed.
The points he made about memory were very interesting. Many of us now need to remember very little - from how to get from A to B (Google maps, SatNav systems) to facts professionals would once have memorised but can now be called up in seconds with a few keystrokes - as the net quickly becomes (or has become already) an easily searchable repository of all human knowledge.
Carr doesn't, in the end, decide whether or not the changes are good or bad - in the end, it matter not as the changes are one-way (for now) - but the story he tells is a fascinating one, and the book certainly made me think, and reflect, on my use of the net.
Ultimately, this a thought-provoking book published too early in the history of the net. In 50-100 years, one assumes, we will be able to see just what difference - if any - the net made to our brains.
I have been minorly concerned for a while about my mental clarity/sharpness - others may have had doubts long before this! - but I began to suspect my use of the internet/computer/email/facebook was contributing to a disconnectedness and fragmentedness in my own thinking.
Nicholas Carr describes his own similar experience, and traces its roots to the rise of the internet as an irreplaceable tool in modern living. He looks at how its form, more than its content, shapes and reshapes our neural pathways, and impacts our ability to think and remember.
Essentially we are rewired for distractedness and faced with overload - so much that our ability to think deeply and to remember is affected.
Thankfully he also shows that, due to the plasticity of the brain, this situation is remediable.
Well written, essential reading for a connected generation
This is not a political book, but it gives the reader the material she needs to consider the larger ramifications. When this book was published, the extent of government surveillance of the internet was not known, even though it was clear that corporate interests were collecting data about users in enormous quantities. Carr does not discuss the way that this can be, is being, and will be, used to stifle public dissent, and to shape public opinion in favour of agendas not to the public benefit. Nor does he consider at much length the implications of allowing the limited imaginations of the creators of this technology - who, as he shows, think human minds are little more than computers - to have such a vast impact on our society and our idea of what it is to be human. He also does not discuss the political and social consequences of dependency on a form of technology that requires numerous sophisticated elements to be universally accessible - from the manufacture of the devices themselves, including the acquisition of the parts, their distribution and cost, the electricity needed to run them, and of course, access to fast reliable servers. It is very unlikely that these will remain constantly and universally available through the shifts and disruptions - if not worse - that will accompany the effects of global warming, and can easily be rendered inaccessible to segments of the population, effectively cutting them off from the main form of global and national communication (this is already the case for the poorest people in western societies). Meanwhile, the population is, as Huxley imagined, absorbed in the technologies, and as Carr makes clear - worse than Huxley imagined - suffering great damage to their capacity for deep, analytical thought.
Carr is ultimately pessimistic - he writes near the end about how he disconnected to write the book and is now re-connecting to the internet. This is not an encouraging book, but it is a powerful, useful indicator of what it is that we are sleepwalking into.
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This book kept me fascinated from start to finish. Gives you great insight into what is happening to our brain as we perpetually cram the internet into our...Read more