Friday, September 17, 2010

More on The Shallows

CNN has a nice article on Nicholas Carr's The Shallows. For me this was a good read. From the CNN article...
  • Carr says: "Like many people, I've spent a lot of time using the net and other digital technologies over the past ten or fifteen years, and I've enjoyed the many benefits those technologies provide. But I came to realize, some time in 2007, that I was losing my ability to pay deep attention to one thing over a long period of time. When I'd sit down to read a book, for instance, I was only able to sustain my concentration for a page or two. My mind would begin to crave stimulation and distraction -- it wanted to click on links, jump from page to page, check email, do some Googling. The habits of mind the net encouraged had become my dominant habits of mind. That's when I began to do the research that led to the writing of 'The Shallows'."
  • The argument at the heart of "The Shallows" is that that the changes Carr felt in his own mind are happening much more broadly throughout society.
  • The way we think is shaped by the tools we use to think with. Carr: "This was true of the map, the alphabet, the clock, and the printing press, and it's true as well of the internet. The net encourages the mental skills associated with the rapid gathering of small bits of information from many sources, but it discourages the kind of deeply attentive thinking that leads to the building of knowledge, conceptual thinking, reflection, and contemplativeness. So, as with earlier intellectual technologies, the net strengthens certain cognitive functions but weakens others. And because the neural pathways in our brain adapt readily to experience, the changes occur in the actual cellular wiring of our brains."
  • So should we be worried? "It depends on what you value about the human mind," says Carr. "Some people love the constant stimulation the net provides, and don't much care about the loss of more solitary, contemplative ways of thinking. For them, it's not a problem at all. Other people -- and I'm one of them -- believe that while it's important to be able to skim and scan and multitask, our deepest and most valuable thinking requires a calm and attentive mind. If you exist in a perpetual state of distractedness, you'll never tap into the deepest sources of human insight and creativity."