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So I replied to the email. The process worked — only too well! I did not wish to suffer the indignity of being pursued down the street by insulting children, so I had to resign from my job. I was in a real pickle.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

It seemed too good to be true but I thought what the hell. But I needed more money than that to pay for the reverse operation I wanted my old penis back. As luck would have it, I got another email from a bank manager in Benin, which is in West Africa. I must live in a really great area for hot women.

View all 36 comments. Everyone's talking about this book, and I felt I had to check it out. In particular, it drove home, more effectively than anything else I've seen, just how addictive the Internet is. As he says, you don't want to admit to yourself how much you crave internet stimulation, and how frequently you check mail, SMSes, Goodreads updates and similar inputs.

I immediately turned off all of these to see what would happen; I'm afraid to say that I was very much more Everyone's talking about this book, and I felt I had to check it out. I immediately turned off all of these to see what would happen; I'm afraid to say that I was very much more productive than usual today. I think I will have to change my work habits in this direction, and make sure that things stay switched off a large part of the time.

Reminding me that I'm an addict was far from being the only thing to like here. I didn't buy his whole analysis, but I thought a lot of it was insightful. I had not properly appreciated just how the market pressures worked. Google and other service providers get paid per click, so they are motivated to make you click as much as possible. In other words, they need to be as distracting as possible, and they are methodical about tuning their software to achieve that goal.

Nice for them, not so nice for the surfer. A related fact, which I hadn't seen before, is that studies show hyperlinks make text harder to understand, not easier. The cognitive load of deciding whether or not to click is larger than you intuitively think. So people skim hypertext, and retain less of the content. A lot of the book explores the cognitive mechanisms that underly internet addiction.

He quotes Marshall McLuhan's well-known phrase, "the medium is the message". In this case, the thing we need to be aware of is that the delivery mechanism, i. We aren't getting hooked on the content; we're getting hooked on the activities of clicking, surfing and receiving social networking messages. He quotes studies on neuroplasticity, showing how the brain rewires itself much more quickly than people used to think when it's confronted with new stimuli.

One particularly striking experiment measured brain activation as people surfed the web, contrasting experienced surfers with newbies. Initially, the brain activation patterns were quite different, but after only a few hours the novices had started to look like the long-time users. The changes start early. Another section I liked made comparisons with earlier innovations in the field of information technology. He considers the invention of writing Sumeria and Ancient Egypt , the alphabet Ancient Greece and printing Gutenberg , arguing that all of these resulted in enormous changes to people's cognitive makeup.

There's a nice passage from one of Socrates's dialogues, where they're discussing the downside of writing; they wonder whether it's destroying people's ability to appreciate poetry, and fooling them into believing that they know a work of literature when they've not actually had to memorize it. But, as he says, these criticisms turned out to be incorrect. Writing led to a set of habits centered around the practice of silent reading, which crystallized into the new phenomenon of the literary mind.

In some of the most passionately felt pages of the book, he explains his belief that this quiet, contemplative way of being - immersion in the text - is one of the cornerstones of Western civilization, and that the internet is in danger of destroying it. It's both moving and ingenious, but I did feel in a way that he was arguing against himself.

As he admits, his criticisms of the internet are very similar to the Ancient Greeks' criticisms of writing, which turned out to be a major leap forward. The internet has only just been born, and it's normal to feel threatened by technology one hasn't yet learned to understand. It seems to me that the analogy with writing is a good one. Once we're more in control of this new medium, it's quite plausible that we may see a similar leap in human thought.

Another thing that made me reluctant to accept everything he said at face value was that, when I was able to check him against my own specialist knowledge, it didn't always match up. A flagrant example was his discussion of the way writing conventions changed during the Middle Ages, which he returned to more than once. He says that there used to be no spaces between words and word-order was free, so reading was more like problem-solving and people couldn't do it easily: I am dubious about this.

For example, Japanese has never been written with spaces between words and Japanese word-order is free, but Japanese people are exceptionally literate. Also, going back to Medieval Europe, it's true that Latin moved towards adopting a more rigid word-order, but that was much earlier, and I didn't think it was reasonable to connect things here. So my feeling is that he is sometimes twisting the facts to fit his hypothesis, and one should take him with a pinch of salt. But even with these reservations, I thought he was very good. And now that I've posted this review, I'm going to log out of Goodreads and do something else, instead of hanging around as usual waiting for my next social networking hit.

View all 26 comments. The book claims research shows "online reading" yields lower comprehension than reading a printed page. In this fascinating, informative book, Carr argues that the internet has not only affected how society communicates and works, but that how our actual brains work is being, has been changed by contemporary modes of communication. He delves into the history of research into brain function to make a case that similar biological changes occurred with prior technological breakthroughs, such as the typewriter.

He cites a wealth of studies that dispel the notion of the brain as set in stone once adult In this fascinating, informative book, Carr argues that the internet has not only affected how society communicates and works, but that how our actual brains work is being, has been changed by contemporary modes of communication. He cites a wealth of studies that dispel the notion of the brain as set in stone once adulthood is reached. The brain is plastic. All our neural circuitry can be modified, and it adapts to each new technology, not with slow genetic modification, but using inherent neurological plasticity to function in new ways.

Next he follows the trail of language from cuneiform through wax tablets to papyrus, and actual pages, from Gutenberg to today, from the radio to television, from Turing to the iPhone. It is a fast-paced and information-rich journey. The change may have some benefits, but the cost is quite high, particularly in reducing our ability to think reflectively.

I found this chapter particularly compelling. Chapter nine takes on the mechanistic view of the human brain as a sort of computer. In particular Carr takes issue with the view of long-term memory as being the equivalent of a hard drive, used solely to hold information. It turns out that, unlike the on-off character of digital memory, human memory is not so absolute. Information, observation and experience go through several steps before finding their way to long term memory, and even when a memory or bit of information is recalled, it finds its way back into long-term memory with the added color and texture of the time and circumstances of its recollection.

This is fascinating stuff, but I think he goes a bit too far in his dismissal of the computer as a model for human brainworks. The similarity to RAM is just too obvious to ignore. Quibble aside, this is a riveting and informative tale, with obvious implications for our culture, that is, if you can pay attention to reading it long enough for the lessons to sink in.

They supply the stuff of thought, but they shape the process of thought.

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P — As revolutionary as it may be, the Net is best understood as the latest in a long series of tools that have helped mold the human mind. View all 19 comments. View all 23 comments. Jan 24, Amir Tesla rated it it was amazing Shelves: Once we wire a new neural circuit into our brain, we long to keep it active. To read a book was to practice an unnatural process of thought, one that demanded sustained, unbroken attention to a single, static object.

It required readers to place themselves at what T. Deep reading is by no means a passive exercise, the reader, becomes the book Many producers are chopping up their products to fit the shorter attention spans of online consumers. When access to information is easy, we tend to favor the short, the sweet and the bitty. Try reading a book while doing a crossword puzzle; that's the intellectual environment of the internet. Navigating the Web requires a particularly intensive form of mental multitasking.

Is The Internet Changing The Way We Think?

Every time we shift our attention, our brain has to reorient itself, further taxing our mental resources. The more you multitask, the less deliberative you become; the less able to think and reason out a problem. Every student kept one. By the seventeenth century, their use had spread beyond the schoolhouse. Commonplaces were viewed as necessary tools for the cultivation of an educated mind. Once we bring an explicit long-term memory back into working memory, it becomes a short-term memory again.

The Web places more pressure on our working memory, not only diverting resources from our higher reasoning faculties but obstructing the consolidation of long-term memories and the development of schemas. The calculator, a powerful but highly specialized tool, turned out to be an aid to memory. The Web is a technology of forgetfulness.

What determines what we remember and what we forget? The key to memory consolidation is attentiveness. Storing explicit memories and, equally important, forming connections between them requires strong mental concentration, amplified by repetition or by intense intellectual or emotional engagement.

The sharper the attention, the sharper the memory. This is accomplished by attending to the information and associating it meaningfully and systematically with knowledge already well established in memory. How is the way we think changing? This is the question we shoud be asking, both of ourselves and of our children. View all 31 comments. Whether or not it was a case of transference I will leave for you to decide, but I was pulling for the bad guy to chop up the good guy. I, however, like to think I found the bad guy much more believable: Other immortals abound, from his mentor, Ramirez , to the aforementioned villain, the Kurgan , and while they all hail from assorted times and places, they all speak perfectly modern English.

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Our most celebrated organ was rendered impotent. This theory satisfactorily explained why a guy who is almost five hundred years old sounds the same as he did when he was about twenty years old. But neuroscience has come a long way in the intervening decades, hanging its hat on neuroplasticity , the proven capacity of the brain and central nervous system to grow and change throughout the whole of one's life.

If you'd like to see neuroplasticity at work, just bind your dominant arm to your torso and see how quickly you are able to use your other arm for everything from driving to manipulating a remote control. Or if you're a French-accented Scotsman living in New York, barring a beheading at the hands of your centuries-old nemesis, mingle with your cultural cousins and kiss that antiquated Clan MacLeod gibberish goodbye. Yet Nicolas Carr makes the argument in The Shallows: He feels that our working-memory is being distracted and overtaxed by a superficial internet culture to the point that it is altering our brain chemistry for the worse, affecting our capacity to synthesize information.

I believe the humanities-oriented among us recognize this as the age-old debate of will versus consciousness, with will triumphant at last. But all is not lost. Carr concedes that there will always be a reading class of elites dedicated to the preservation of critical thought. I, for one, am overjoyed at the prospect. For too long have I toiled in the shadows of the robber barons of crass materialism, skulkingly camouflaged as a bourgeois suburbanite. Brothers and sisters, rejoice! The time of the Romantic Renaissance is at hand!

Fit me for something along the lines of a philosopher-king and seat me on my Kurtz-like throne fashioned from the skulls of MBA graduates. There can be only one. Here's an inference exercise: Cause you "got it good" when it comes to your addiction to the Internet. Probably you wake up and wonder what's in your e-mail's inbox. Probably you check it before breakfast. Probably, even though you're not supposed to, you peek at it from work. Probably you're part of some social network site like Here's an inference exercise: Probably you're part of some social network site like Facebook or Goodreads and feel you are a "player," a "valued member," a "person to be missed" if you go missing for a week no worry there!

Probably you're pretty witty, too. Yes, you take time to eat, but probably you're wondering how your last witticism, or your last thread started, or your last photo uploaded, has gone over. You wonder, for instance, how many "likes" it has garnered or maybe how many "hits" your page has taken or maybe how many "friendquests" you have accumulated popularity This is important stuff.

Thus, the time suck and your total acceptance of that inhaling sound. Probably you could be reading but it's more fun to talk about your reading, or your not reading, or your should-be reading, or the concept of reading. Probably you should be with your family, but what the hell, they're IM-ing or texting or chatting on the cellphone or cruising the Net, too. Send them an e-mail in the other room. Boy, this is sad. But not really, because the Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away.

You, being no fool, focus on the "giveth. And you're pretty good at it by now, too, so all is not lost. Why let Carr rain on your parade with his own facts, his own list of studies showing that the Internet is not the be-all after all, but might well be the end-all? Why heed his relentless proofs that the Internet is little more than the Great Interrupter, that the Internet fractures our focus and muddies our mindsets, that hyperlinks distract more than enhance as we research electronically vs. Why pay attention when you know you're not very good at it any more because the Net has taught your mind to lose focus quickly if it isn't fed quickly?

Worship at the "Church of Google" as Carr calls it? Prepare for some blasphemy. Carr will show you who Google's really looking after hint: There's a little history here, a lot of studies here, more than a few surveys, statistics, and data here, but Carr pretty much keeps it in layman's terms. He doesn't think the backlash against the Net will necessarily come from Middle-Aged Grouches like me, either. In fact, he suspects it will be the hopeful, counter-revolutionary young who will sound the clarion call for moderation and modesty when it comes to our electronic lives also known as our kidnapped real-world lives Well, you could read it, shrug, and ignore it.

You could read it, frown, and dismiss it. Or you could give it some thought, roll up your sleeves, and set to work on the recovery of YOU -- a person you might remember. A person who once knew life without a cellphone, without an Internet, without an iAnything, and was perfectly happy and complete despite that impossible to fathom handicap.

Surely you remember that rather quaint, idealistic person. Before taking the long and winding road back, might as well check e-mail one more time -- just once. Like the White Rabbit, people are waiting and they don't have all day. View all 10 comments. View all 4 comments. But it has not dropped off steeply, as many predicted.

View all 33 comments. The premise championed here is that use of the internet Goodreads for example causes something to happen to your brain. His words are delicate, but Carr ultimately sees a bit more negative than positive to our online interactions. But now, the internet. I like this book. To underscore his premise, he stays away from sweeping and sticking statements of social values and mores, and focuses most of the book on the changes in your brain, from an anatomical and, especially, physiological perspective.

See, I was ready to disagree with Carr before even cracking the binding. This means that brain physiology actually changes in response to its environment. Brain chemistry can--almost overnight--rejigger where and how it processes sets of data. Neuronal connections are broken, elsewhere established, and reinforced by use of different technology. No, something is different about the internet. But Carr achieves very convincing levels of example, mostly from scientific research, which explain that the way the internet is displayed to us, and the way we interact with it, is creating a shallower form of intelligence than simply reading books in 1.

The internet provides too much--too much data, too quickly, too divergently, too distractedly, too unassociatively, and with too much finality. Embedded links and mobile connectivity keeps us sputtering over substance like a flat rock spun out over water. Oh, no, not you Goodreader! You still read books and discuss them in long, academic threads and apply academic rigor to the subject.

The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember by Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr has an answer for you. Go take a look. I learned a few things here. Even though I felt a little victimized and batted about the face and head, the read was worth it. He really does a decent job explaining how our brain, the physical matter, adapts to the written world. I agree with his premise, and received more from this book than what I expected.

And I agree with it. View all 40 comments. Mr Pinker, vacuous decrier of this book. I wonder if you might listen in on the salutary tale of what happened to my brain some years ago and the general relevance of this tale to the Internet society in which we now live If you couldn't tell from the title, Carr really has issues with the internet, and he has some data to support his criticism. He also misses the brain he had before it became Google-cized.


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Ironically, I found his book kind of unreadable - not because my brain has been Google-cized, but because Carr's has. Whilst reading a web page we jump from hyperlink to hyperlink on a seemingly never ending journey which leads us from one rabbit warren to another. Carr utilises a range of evidence to support his various points but perhaps one of the more convincing comes from a study that reviewed 34 million academic articles published between and While the digitisation of journals made it far easier to find this information, it also coincided with a narrowing of citations, with scholars citing fewer previous articles and focusing more heavily on recent publications.

Furthermore, as a direct consequence of this fragmentation, Carr also argues that our levels of concentration are also being slowly worn down. The craving for the latest of the latest information compels us to surf the web all the more. The other side of the argument What does seem lacking in this book is a sense of at least a cursory nod in the direction of other perspectives which might contrast with the views of Carr. Obviously he is writing a book in order to advance his views and so no-one would expect him to critique his own perspective to such an extent that he renders it of no value or standing.

However, to at least include a cursory discussion of other perspectives would be helpful. A case in point would be the consideration and discussion of scientific research which actually concludes that the change the internet is bringing about in terms of brain function and the way in which we think is actually a good thing for the mind.

Clearly, Carr would disagree but why? Take for example the cognitive effects of video games. A study found that gaming actually led to significant improvements in performance on various cognitive tasks, from visual perception to sustained attention. A study published in Nature in even concluded that after subjects showed dramatic increases in visual attention and memory after playing Medal of Honour after just 10 days of playing.

This area of the brain has been linked to skills such as selective attention and deliberate analysis; skills that Carr argues have vanished in the age of the Internet. Given these points, I was led to do some Google searching of my own in order to learn more about the author.

I found that Carr is in his fifties. His age particularly struck me — not because I am an ageist — but simply of where it places Carr in terms of his generational affiliation. Would these thoughts differ if someone younger had written the book? Interestingly, throughout the book very little consideration or discussion is made of in relation to online gaming experiences and virtual reality environments such as Second Life. The key here is about immersion and engagement and points more to the domain of Web 2. Admittedly, it is this point that generates the most criticism in terms of excessive immersion and engagement that leads to addiction.

What emerges for the reader, inexorably, is the suspicion that we have well and truly screwed ourselves. It is a patient and rewarding popularisation of some of the research being done at the frontiers of brain science … Mild-mannered, never polemical, with nothing of the Luddite about him, Carr makes his points with a lot of apt citations and wide-ranging erudition. Reveal its inner workings — and the groupthink or brain damage it can cause — and we will see the necessity of resisting.


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See if you can stay off the web long enough to read it! He makes the research stand on end, punctuating it with pithy conclusions and clever phrasing. Best Business Books Netherlands: