Book Review: "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr

Have you also noticed how your attention span has went down the last ten years? You can't focus on reading a book or write an article? How your multitasking skills improved in the last decade?

Well, I certainly did and when I read a shot book review about Nicholas Carr's new book: "The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember", I knew I had to read it.

Nicholas G. Carr

So I did and hereby I want to share a short summary with you.

The book is a great mirror to show us how the internet has been integrated in to our daily lives and is changing they way we use our brain and therefore think. Carr draws from historical and cutting edge scientific research to show us that Internet is rewiring our brains and actually creating more superficial understanding. The back cover summerizes is nicely:

"By moving from the depths of thought to the shallows of distraction, the web, it seems, is actually fostering ignorance."

Personally I totally I can relay to this, as I noticed that my short-term memory is really suffering. Because I am using GPS tools to navigate roads, search engines to find things and my Blackberry for all my phone numbers & appointments. I love to write posts for the several blogs I manage, but I notice that I often can't find my self in a concentrated mood to produce a quality post. I am trying to study new languages and find my settle shifting on my chair unable to concentrate. On top of that I noticed I love the days where I totally switch off: no usage of any electrical device whatsoever.

As I don't want to spoil too much of The Shallows, I will just conclude this brief post with a 3 parts of texts:

From page 217 (of the red paperback edition): "Automating cognitive processes in this way has become the modern programmers' stock-in-trade. And for good reason: people naturally seek out those software tools and Web sites that offer the most help and the most guidance - and shun those that are difficult to master. We want friendly, helpful software. Why wouldn't we? Yet as we cede to software more of the toil of thinking, we are likely diminishing our own brain power in subtle but meaningful way. When a ditchdigger trades his shovel for a backhoe, his arm muscles weaken even as his efficiency increases. A similar trade-off may well take place as we automate the work of the mind."

From page 219: "A series of psychological studies over the past twenty years has revealed that after spending time in a quiet rural setting, close to nature, people exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory, and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper. The reason, according to attention restoration theory, or ART, is that when people aren't being bombarded by external stimuli, their brains can, in effect, relax."

From pages 221-222 I want to conclude this post about a must-read book: "We may lose our capacity "to concentrate on a complex task from beginning to end," but in recompense we'll gain new skills, such as the ability to "conduct 34 conversations simultaneously across six different media." A prominent economist writes, cheerily, that "the web allows us to borrow cognitive strengths from autism and to be better infovores." An Atlantic author suggests that our "technology-induced ADD" may be "a short-term problem," stemming from our reliance on "cognitive habits evolved and perfected in an era of limited information flow." Developing new cognitive habits is "the only viable approach to navigating the age of constant connectivity," Carr concludes chapter ten."

If you are interested in more articles by Nicholas Carr, check his blog: Rough Type.

 

2 thoughts on “Book Review: "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr”

  1. I have not read the book, but I can agree somehow that the web fosters ignorance, maybe not ignorance per say, but it does not help otherwise either.
    Take the online courses and on line tests as an example. I am pretty sure that many of us has taken a few of those in the course of our education and how much did we learn from that? I know students who take the course, don't even buy the book and when it comes to tests, they Google the question and without understanding what they are studying or what the question is about, they submit the question and pass the course, and here is the education of our youth!! You don't need to basically know anything as far as you know how to Google it!!
    I guess Googling is a skill too.

  2. @Guilda: Thank you for your input. Great comment, didn't see it like that. As I never took an online test, never taught of it... But, I do agree that Googling is not only a verb, but definitely a skill too πŸ˜‰

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