The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

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Senteo Rating 2.0
04/27/23
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Author:Nicholas Carr
04/27/23
views 885
comments0
Author:Nicholas Carr
DIAMOND
RATING
Senteo Rating 2.0

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
Nicholas Carr W. W. Norton & Company, 2011
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The rise of the Internet has seen the fall of intelligence. Human thought has witnessed the beginnings of its demise, ironically enough by the presence of the very technology that it sought to produce and proliferate.

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, explores how the human mind has been turned malleable, molded by the mental tools and technologies that have been developed over the centuries.The Internet is not condemned by Carr – he is actually an avid user for all things internet related; rather, he is merely identifying what we are exchanging for the right to access the seemingly infinite reaches of the Internet. For all of the benefits that the technology has imparted upon humanity, Carr is quick to point out the downside to our gains.

Carr goes through his book, citing how books are slowly fading into a faint memory of how we used to access information and find pleasure.Stating how technology embodies a set of “intellectual tools” we use to advance our knowledge, he claims that we have shunned the written word in favor of more instant and far-reaching gratification through technological mediums.

Ideas and information are rooted in the Internet while media is almost solely accessed through a single device whereas years ago each major outlet – print, television, and radio – commanded its own area of expertise. Today, the world is dominated by machines and technology with humans serving as a means for advancement and improvement, and Carr believes that we will soon all be swearing by the Internet that rules us.

While not exactly a business book per se, The Shallows offers quite the interesting look at the human mind and how it has evolved with the changes the Internet era has wrought. What this book does offer us is an analysis of the impact of technology on how human minds think and perceive information. Chiefly, this provides us with is an opportunity to understand how people will view and internalize the presentation of a business from a marketing and relationship standpoint. The book isolates how the mind is constantly moving between interests, easily distracted and turning away from current ideas. This is akin to how people can be easily persuaded to leave their current institutions for new features. Ideas within the book explain the human mind’s adaptation to technology, giving us a glimpse of how best to position products and services to captivate their fleeting attention and wallets.

Within the breakdown of how the Internet has come to spoil the human mind, Carr fails to address the numerous studies that point out that the Internet and recent technologies have had a positive impact on the brain. While he does make valid claims, he fails to refute the evidence supporting that Internet-related technologies have actually improved the performance of the human mind. As pointed out by a neuroscience study at UCLA, performing Google searches utilized the part of the brain in charge of selective attention and analysis, effectively contradicting what Carr claims. Also, there is a consistent lack of information on how to fix the lack of focus, nor is there any methodology for capturing the minimal attention left. Theoretical in nature, there is a constant lack of substance to the claims made, not because of a lack of simple logic and reasoning, but for a lack of hard evidence and practical application.

“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.

Being a psychology-oriented book, readers would do well to fully understand that this is by no means a comprehensive business perspective about the human mind. What is valuable, however, is the understanding how individual reacts to certain information and stimuli. This sort of information is vital to teams who implement new technology and market to the customers. Knowing what technological tools will work together will help to create a harmonious balance between interpersonal interaction and new technology. Marketers, on the other hand, will need to know how people react to sensory stimuli in order to create effective campaigns. To a lesser extent, managers would be able to use the information to better structure their teams and maintain focus in the workplace.

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This theoretical approach to the human mind and understanding perception is theoretical at best, lacking hard evidence or specific case studies reinforcing the claim. Additionally, there is a significant lack of any practical application of the claim. Wholly, the book serves to identify an idea and present it to the masses without extrapolating upon details or providing a way to identify, maintain, or apply the theory.  

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    The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
    Nicholas Carr W. W. Norton & Company, 2011
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