Much of this video’s content is covered in Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows, What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, in detail. Here’s my review of the book:
The irony is a spongy wad, so thick the fine edge of your keyboard or netbook would be enough to cut it.
I’m trying to write a review of Nicholas Carr’s new book, The Shallows, and all the while, I can’t seem to stop myself from checking TweetDeck every few minutes (there just did it again); or a quick dip in to my email, or to check my blog comments…
This is the welter of distractions we face every day, for those of us who are wired, reading, and working. Even if you’re disciplined, the distraction is there — it takes an act of will to resist it, and what happens to your brain in that instant while you’re deciding if you should click on that link, open up that Facebook app, or make a comment on the article you’ve been reading between tasks?
A lot. In fact, your brain is being rewired while we you read this, assuming, of course, you’ve made it this far in the review and you’re still reading.
This is why I believe everyone who has any interest at all in the Internet, the web and reading should study this book. If you’re intrigued by the ultimate the fate of the human species, and where this information age is taking us, you’ll want to have a look. Hell, probably anyone who uses the net should consider at least scanning it. (Yes, more irony.)
Carr’s writing and research is excellent, and his thesis is straightforward: we’re giving up part of our humanity in the headlong rush to absorb as much information as we can, as quickly as we can. The book discusses the history of media, and how our brains have changed before — first with the advent of writing, and then with the development of Guttenburg’s press; he carries the argument from current studies of the brain and consciousness to the flawed model of our brains as computers and our minds as software; he delves into how philosophers and other thinkers have meditated on this subject throughout history.
And it is exactly the discipline of meditation, and “deep reading” as he calls it, that we are starting to lose with the web. It’s changing our writing, our thinking, and ultimately, it’s changing our culture.
If nothing else, this book will help you be more aware of what is happening to you on a daily basis. I’ve already been aware of some of the effects he discusses — for example, when I’m writing a piece of long fiction, I always make sure my computer is disconnected from the net, and I don’t have any other programs except for my word processor (and iTunes) open. Now, I see that I need to give my brain at more of a break from the constant info-dump of the net than that.
We’re all altering human evolution with this experiment, and who knows where it will end? Carr is not optimistic, and he worries that when it is all over, we will no longer be homo sapiens, we will be homo informavore.
On a purely side note, this is one of the themes I explore (comically) in The Fridgularity, which is currently available as an ebook for 99-cents. Here on Kindle, and in all other formats on Smashwords. (Use Coupon Code YU86X.) If Carr’s observations interest you, I’m sure you’ll find the satire fun.