The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (2010)

Nicholas Carr explores how the Internet is changing the way people think.  In this well-documented novel, Carr provides a detailed history of the book, studies on the neuroplasticity of the brain, and how the Internet is possibly re-wiring the way we think.

Interspersed are “digressions”; anecdotal asides from Carr that give the reader insight into some of his more personal views. This is not a bashing of the Internet. In fact, Carr lets the reader know how dependant he has become on the medium.

Rather, I believe Carr is encouraging us to think about how we process information today and what the Internet has done to change that process. He says the Internet has created a mind that is easily distracted and I personally believe he is correct. I find it much more difficult to focus on reading something on a screen than reading something in print.

In one section, Carr paints a pastoral picture of Nathaniel Hawthorne in peaceful contemplation near Sleepy Hollow. Hawthorne writes of how his reverie is suddenly broken by the arrival of a steam engine. Carr uses this example to show how the “contemplative mind is overwhelmed by the noisy world’s mechanical busyness” (pg. 167).

Once again, Carr is not discrediting the advantages technological innovations bring, but instead reminds us that there “needs to be time for efficient data collection and inefficient contemplation, time to operate the machine and time to sit idly in the garden… The problem today is that we’re losing that ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we’re in perpetual locomotion” (p 168). I highly recommend this book.

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