The author goes on to provide a thorough researched account of how text on the web is supposed to make the browsing experience fast and profitable. Carr described how the web is structured to make money for certain people how critical thinking skills and attention spans are ignored in the process. He finishes his argument by describing what people are losing in the shift towards the web as our main source of information. The author talks about the new idea of considering the brain as a computer feels bad for the loss of deep reading and intellectual stimulation it offers for ones brains. Lastly, the authors quotes the 2001: A space Odyssey scene which he used to open the article. He identifies with the computer within the scene instead of the robotic human and appears to imply that the web will cause us to become more machine like instead of machines.
This paper will analyze Carr’s argument that the computer/internet is affecting our capacity to make our own associations and develop our own ideas.
I agree with the authors remarks that the internet is deeply impacting ones capacity to read and stimulate ones thinking capacity and such a scenario would greatly impact everyone. In his article, Carr explained how the internet impacted him. He pointed out that after he began using the internet, he was no longer able to read long texts of information without getting distracted and he is no longer firmly linked to what he was reading (Carr, 2015, p313). Carr is not the only person who has noticed this changes, other researchers and scholars share similar concerns. Bruce Friedman, a blogger who Carr used as an example pointed out that blog post which are over three pages is too much to absorb and which is what Carr and other researchers have experienced (p316). The reason for this according to Carr is that people are spending a lot of time the internet. Carr argued that spending a lot of time on the internet and switching from one website to another has changed the way he reads information (Carr, 2015, p316).He went on to note that he has stopped thinking the way he used to think. He went on to add that immersing himself in a lengthy article initially used to be very easy. His mind would get caught up in the narrative, and he would spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. However, since he began using the internet, he finds it harder to read lengthy books. His concentration usually begins to drift after reading two or three pages. This sentiments by the author are not unique to him since it is what other people are going through.
I fully support Carr sentiments we, as a culture, read a lot more owing to the internet, however, he lamented that one’s capacity to understand text, to make informed rich mental connections that is created when one reads deeply without getting distracted, remains largely disengaged. Carr highlighted a quote from an essay by the playwright Richard Foreman: he comes from a tradition of Western culture whereby the ideal was the complex, dense, and ‘cathedral-like’ framework of the very educated and articulate man/woman that carried inside themselves a personally developed and distinct form of the whole heritage of the West. But currently, all that we see within us (myself included) there placement of sophisticated inner density with a newer type of self-evolving under the pressure of overload of information and internet of the ‘immediate availability.
Our reliance on the web has a dark side. An increasing body of scientific research have pointed out that the web, with its constant distractions and interruptions, is changing human beings to scattered and superficial thinkers. According to Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, the similar thread in such disabilities is the division of our attention. He went on to point out that the richness of ones thoughts, memory and personalities hinges on once capacity to focus the brain and sustain concentration (Carr, 2010). It is only when one pays attention to a newer pieces of information is when one is able to relate to it “meaningfully and systematically with information already well established in memory. These associations are crucial when it comes to mastering complex ideas and critical thinking.
When we are at all times distracted and interrupted, as we tend to be when starring at the screens of the computers and mobile phones, the brains tends to become unable to form the firm & expansive neural links which gives uniqueness and depth to ones thinking. Ones thoughts tend to become disorganized/incoherent, hence ones memories become very weak. This scenario conforms to the words of the Roman philosopher Seneca who pointed out 2,000 years ago that to be everywhere is to be nowhere (Carr, 2010).
The deep dependence on the internet is also impacting negatively on the performance of students in their school work. In a single research experiment that was carried out at a US university, half a class of students were allowed to use internet-connected laptops during their lectures, while the other half were asked to shut down their computers . At the end of this experiment, it was established that the students who were allowed to use internet-connected laptops during their lectures performed much worse on a subsequent test (Carr, 2010). The primary reason for this was that they were unable to recall what was taught in class since their attention/concertation levels was distracted. Initial experiments showed that as the number of links in an online document increases, one’s reading comprehension tends to decline, and as more forms of information are put on a screen, one tend to less of what we see.
The above cases are a clear indication that though the internet is good, it has a dark side to it. This is so it tends to impact negatively on ones thinking capacity, concentration levels and retention of information. If this trend goes on, then we as humans are putting ourselves at greater risks of not been able to fully realize and utilize the power of our brains, i.e. thinking capacity. By depending on the web, it is like we have delegated the role of thinking to the computers/web. Such a scenario is very dangerous since it makes us to become unable to think even when it comes to making simple decisions.
With this regard, it like the web has become a drug which we have to use in order for us to function properly. Carr gives credit to the web for making research which initially used to take days available in a matter of minutes (Carr, 2010). But what one gets comes at a huge cost. Carr is of the opinion that concertation and deeper contemplation is what people are giving up. Moreover, one might be good at multitasking, but creativity would be affected significantly. Since creativity is as a result of critical thinking, the heavy reliance on the web tends to negatively impact ones deeper thinking hence hindering them from becoming creative. What we as humans are sacrificing in our surfing and searching is our capability to engage in the quieter, attentive modes of thoughts which underpins contemplation, deliberation and self-analysis (Carr, 2010). The internet never motivates us to slow down. It only keeps us in a state of continuous mental locomotion. The growth/expansion of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter that pumps out streams of brief messages, have just exacerbated the issue.
There is nothing wrong with absorbing too much information faster and in bits and pieces. We as humans have at all times skimmed newspapers more than we have read them, and we continuously run our eyes over journals and magazines so as to obtain the gist of a piece of writing and make decisions as to whether they qualify for further/extensive reading. The capability to scan and browse is as crucial as the ability to read deeply and think attentively. What is worrying and disturbing is that skimming has grown to become our dominant form of thought (Carr, 2010). Once a means to an end, a way of identifying information for future research, it’s becoming an end in itself — our liked form of both learning and evaluation. Dazzled by the reassures of web, human beings have been blinded to the damage that we are doing to our won intellectual lives and even our cultures.
The discovery of the internet has brought with it numerous benefits. However, there has been a growing concern that the web is adversely impacting our capacity to think critically and which in one way or the other is making us to become “stupid” or unable to think independently.
UK Assignment Writing Service, (2017) Summary of Is Google Making Us Stupid by Nicholas Carr | Assignment Writing Service. Retrieved from https://assignmentwritingservice.net/uk
Carr Nicholas, “Is Google Making Us Stupid”. They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. With readings. 2015 313-329, print
Carr, Nicholas. How
This latest tiff (e.g. Shirky-Sanger) seems to boil down to another of Robert Wright's zero-sum dichotomies—like the hoary left-right political axis, or the "choice" we are all-too frequently offered, between safety and freedom. Simplistic tradeoffs ought to raise our hackles. Is the Google Era empowering us to be better, smarter, more agile thinkers... or transforming us into distracted, manic scatterbrains?
Alas, both sides are right... and both are missing key points. May I start by offering a step-back perspective?
Only a generation ago, intellectuals wrung their hands over what then seemed a legitimate concern, that the rapidly-increasing pace of discovery and knowledge-accumulation would force individuals to specialize more and more. This projection seemed logical. It also reflected the one monotonic trend of the 20th Century—a professionalization-of-all-things.
Funny thing, you just don't hear much about fear of over-specialization, anymore. Yet, has the tsunami of new knowledge ceased? Then why did that worry go away?
As it turned out, several counter-trends (some of them having nothing to do with the Internet) seem to have transformed the intellectual landscape. Today, most scientists seem far more eclectic, agile and cross-disciplinary than ever. They seek insights and collaboration far afield from their specialties. Conversations like this one abound. Institutions like UCSD's Sixth College deliberately blend the arts and sciences, belying C.P. Snow's "two cultures." Moreover, the spread of avocations and ancillary expertise suggest we're heading toward a looming Age of Amateurs.
If anything our worry has mutated. Instead of fretting about specialists "knowing more and more about less and less," today's info-glut has had an inverse effect—to spread peoples' attention so widely that they—in effect—know just a little about a vast range of topics. No longer do we fear "narrowmindedness" as much as "shallowmindedness."
Indeed, Larry Sanger is right to see the present incarnation of the web as depressingly superficial, facile and often frivolous. If Clay Shirky revels in the blogosphere, can he point to anything that it actually accomplishes? Name a problem that all this "discourse" has decisively solved—in a world where problems proliferate and accumulate at record pace?
Let's make the challenge simpler—can Shirky even point to one stupidity that has been decisively disproved?
Isn't that the ultimate aim of most enlightenment processes? To facilitate the evolution of consensus away from discredited errors and toward generally reliable (and useful) truths? Sure, the blogosphere engenders the raw material of productive discourse—opinion. Massive, pyroclastic flows of opinion. (Including this one.) But, if Theodore Sturgeon's law says "Ninety percent of anything is crap" then what do you do when the ratio is tens of thousands to one? And when there is never, ever any way to decisively determine which is which?
Bullshit makes great fertilizer. But (mixing metaphors a bit) shouldn't there be ways to eventually let the pearls rise and the worst of the noxious toxins go away, like Phlogistin and Baal worship? More to the point, isn't that what happens in the older Enlightenment systems—markets, democracy, science and law courts? After argument and competitive discourse in those arenas, aren't decisions eventually reached, so that people can move on to the next problem, and the next?
The crux: today's web and blogosphere have only half of the process that makes older Enlightenment "accountability arenas" function. Imagination and creativity are fostered. But we also need the Dance of Shiva, destroying the insipid and vicious and untrue and stupid, to make room for more creativity! No censors or priests or arbiters of taste can do that, but a market could, if today's Web offered tools of critical appraisal and discourse, in addition to tools of fecund opinionation.
Note that my complaint isn't the same as Larry Sanger's—about my fellow citizens becoming "nekulturny" and losing the ability to read (as in the Walter Tevis novel Mockingbird.) Sure, I wish (for example) that some of the attention and money devoted to shallow movie sci-fi would turn to the higher, literary form, with its nuanced gedankenexperiments about speculative change. At one level, I share Sanger's worry about losing the best mental skills and tools and memes of the past.
Still, there is nothing unique about today's quandary. Each generation faces a rapid expansion of available facts and concepts. Ever since the arrival of glass lenses and movable type, the amount that each person can see and know has multiplied, even exponentiated, with new tools ranging from newspapers and lithographs, tosteamships and telegraphs, to television and so on. Shall we preach that the old ways (and the old stuff, like Tolstoy) were better? Shouldn't a modern person worry, upon hearing such words uttered by his or her own mouth? Dang kids. Turn off that radio and get off my lawn.
Consider, every time new prosthetics allowed people to see and know much more, conservatives and nostalgists claimed that normal people could not adapt. That such godlike powers should be reserved to an elite, perhaps even renounced.
Meanwhile, enthusiasts zealously have greeted every memory and vision prosthetic with hosannas, forecasting an apotheosis of reason and light.
(In 1894, philanthropist John Jacob Astor wrote a best-selling novel about the year 2001—a future transformed by science, technology, enterprise and human good will. Life can be ironic. Astor died with a famed flourish of noblesse oblige aboard the sinking Titanic—the first of many garish calamities that began quenching this naive zeal for progress. For a while.)
In reality, the vision and memory prosthetics brought on consequences that were always far more complicated than either set of idealists expected. Out of all this ruction, just one thing made it possible for us to advance, ensuring that the net effects would be positive. That one thing was the pragmatic mind set of the Enlightenment.
Gradually, we crafted markets, democracy, science and law courts that harnessed human competitiveness in ways that minimized the blood on the floor, while maximizing creative output. Each of the new new godlike powers slipped into these competitive arenas, harnessing them under fair and transparent—though always flawed—rules.
No, what's needed is not the blithe enthusiasm preached by Shirky... or Sanger's grouchy nostalgia. What is needed is a hard, pragmatic look at what's missing from today's web. Tools that might help turn quasar-levels of gushing opinion into something like discourse. New versions of what worked for the Enlightenment—markets, democracy etc—so that several billion people can do more than just express a myriad shallow rumors and shallow ideas, but test them, compare them (like shoppers, or voters or scientists or lawyers) and actually reach some conclusions, now and then!
What kind of tools might help a storm of opinion turn into discourse? There are several key features of markets, democracy, science and law that the Internet has never provided, for all of its notable fecundity. Simple tools and services that might add a little depth and traction to its usefulness as an arena of problem-solving.
But what matters is stepping back from yet another tiresome dichotomy between fizzy enthusiasm and testy nostalgia.