The Shallows

The Shallows

What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Book - 2010
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Baker & Taylor
Expanding on an article that appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the best-selling author of The Big Switch discusses the intellectual and cultural consequences of the Internet, and how it may be transforming our neural pathways for the worse.

Norton Pub
“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.
Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction: “Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind.”—Michael Agger, SlateFinalist for the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award

Book News
With references to Marshall McLuhan's "the medium is the message" and supercomputer Hal losing his 'mind' in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google joins the debate over whether the Internet is altering our thought processes. Drawing on neuroscience and computer science, Carr supports the argument that digital technology is reversing the 'deepening of thought' that the printed word launched, and Kubrick's vision that humans and computers are switching roles. The provocative book includes suggested further reading. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Baker
& Taylor

Discusses the intellectual and cultural consequences of the Internet, and how it may be transforming our neural pathways for the worse.

Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780393072228
0393072223
Characteristics: viii, 276 p. ; 25 cm

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AL_ALISON Sep 08, 2016

It certainly freaked me out about my own Internet usage. I cut down for about a week, sigh. The book is strongest when it discusses the history of media like the printing press and how that caused monumental shifts in cultures.

b
blueroo276
May 30, 2016

Lots of information on neural plasticity and the influence of the printing press, in addition to summaries of research regarding the internet and our brains. Very accessible for a lay reader.

r
Rafaello
Mar 04, 2016

A MUST read!

u
undereli
Dec 05, 2015

For the first time I'm leaving a comment before finishing the entire book. The library found another popular title I'm itching to get into, but I'm returning to this one when I'm done.

Whenever I see a book title like this, I worry it's going to filled with condescending words towards book, and to reading in general. And there is some of that here, of course. I'm far more impressed with the scope this book takes of the history of storytelling and literature throughout time, from the Mesopotamian, orality, the invention of workable alphabets, through scribes and mass oral reading, to the invention of the Guttenburg Press, and how that changed how we thought and interacted with words.

The intruduction of the Kindle is seen as one of the means of transforming how we read today. The publishers of words are more and more adapting their styles to appeal to a new audience affixed with the ease and attention-altering influences of getting information on-line.

Overall, it's well thought - out and written. I look forward to returning to complete this amazing piece soon.

WVMLStaffPicks Sep 14, 2014

What impact has the Internet had on our brains? How has it changed the way we think? Nicholas Carr, with the same deft touch he used in his previous novel The Big Switch, interweaves the history of reading and technology with neuroscience and sociology. Using concrete examples, interviews, and personal accounts, this book approaches the changes that have occurred and questions what the future might look like.

ascherer Apr 02, 2013

The book relates a number of experiments that point to the idea that Internet affects both the way we think and the very organic structure of our brain. According to the author and the scientific experiments he refers to, Internet develops multitasking and indexing capabilities in our brains: where to find the information rather than knowing the information itself. Because our working memory is so constantly and intensely solicited we don't think as deeply and reflexively as we used to. This adversely impact our creativity and our ability to empathize.
The book is well written and "talked" to me as I could relate to many experiences described in it based on my own usage of the Internet.

t
tinfoiling
Apr 07, 2012

One of the most interesting books that puts into perspective what is happening to us when it comes to usage of the Internet.

j
Jean-Pierre Lebel
Mar 27, 2012

If you've noticed that your attention span has shortened over the past decade, this book may be a good place to start. Nicholas Carr makes a strong case for how our dependence on the Internet is changing the structure of our brains. Siting many studies, surveys and experiments he presents abundant evidence to support his thesis: we are changing from a linear deep learning process to a multitasking, rapid information acquiring process that is shallow. He also takes a stab at Google and their contribution this phenomenon. For the most part this is a well written and thoroughly researched book. Near the end the author seems to go off on a few tangents that I found curious. Overall this book is recommended for anyone. It left me aware that "mindful" web browsing will take some training and personal effort.

g
GuyN
Oct 15, 2011

Despite the rather sensationalist title this is a reasonable balanced presentation of recent research into our brains and what our growing use of the Internet may mean for the future. After pointing out that the changes neuroplasticity (get used to the word) enables in our brain from daily hours of Net use seem to increase our ability to scan multiple options and make decisions quickly Carr laments the probability that ability to do deep reading will atrophy (supported by research he cites.) This book will make you think hard and deep. It is itself deep reading, although Proust and the Squid (also on brain changes) would be a more apt example of the concept.

kpjorgen May 04, 2011

Interesting and relevant read for those concerned with how far the internet has intruded into our culture and consciousness.

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