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Paperback - Revised Ed.
More About The Shallows by Nicholas CarrOverview"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.
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Step away from the screen
The Internet has given us gifts straight from a sci-fi novel: information at the click of a button; the ability to communicate with anyone anytime; the unbridled joy that comes with watching a cat play the keyboard.
Though it’s not as obvious, the Internet has also changed us neurologically, affecting our reading habits and our concentration. Not all of this is for the better, especially since our reliance on the Net is depriving us of the glorious ability to think deeply. So explains Nicholas Carr in his outstanding new book, The Shallows. In measured, calm prose, Carr (who, yes, uses the Internet) interprets a staggering amount of scientific evidence and social history to show how we shouldn’t allow the Internet and its accompanying practices to dictate our lives.
Carr’s goal is to raise awareness, which he does with gentle eloquence, making it more inviting to digest the eye-opening studies. You know how you pride yourself on answering emails while messaging your friends and finishing that work project? You shouldn’t. Carr shares this insight from neuroscientist and multitasking expert David Meyer: “You can train until you’re blue in the face and you’d never be as good [at multitasking] as if you just focused on one thing at a time.” Meanwhile, looking at the Internet as a replacement for memory is ill-advised. “We don’t constrain our mental power when we store new long-term memories,” Carr writes. “We strengthen them.”
The Shallows is so much more than a shrewd, compelling overview of how an ever-changing, always growing technology has changed us. It’s a reminder that there are benefits to being our old, boring, pen-and-paper selves. “Of all the sacrifices we make when we devote ourselves to the Internet as our universal medium, the greatest is likely to be the wealth of connections within our own minds,” Carr writes. Stepping away from the screen will become crucial as the Internet becomes a bigger part of what we do and, scarily, who we are. It’s not too late to emerge from the online haze.