Nicolas Carr’s Is Google Making Us Stupid, a 2008 article, discusses the effects technology has on cognitive exercises, such as attention span, critical thinking, and the acquiring of knowledge. And how the use of technology and the internet fundamentally changes the way we process and understand knowledge.
The article begins with Carr narrating a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the dismantle of Hal the supercomputer is enacted, claiming to feel his mind fade away. The insinuation of such a scene illustrates the parallel Carr draws between Hal’s mind and the human’s; stating at the conclusion of his article, “…people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine…it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.” (Carr 12).
The internet allows entry to an assembly of resources and information, however the more time spent on the net, the harder it is to concentrate on lengthier text. Feeling as if someone has reprogrammed his brain, Carr finds himself with symptoms of diminishing critical thinking and reduced attention spans. Our transaction of gained intelligence for superficiality of the internet as “reading promoted by the Net…puts ‘efficiency’ and ‘immediacy’ above all else,” (Carr 4) leads us to believe Google has the ability to answer all our questions, there is no effort or need to research ourselves “weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading,” (Carr 4) critical thinking supports.
Carr analyzes the work of Maryanne Wolf, who explores theories regarding the role of technology on learning how to script new languages; he supports the innate ability of speech that stems from the brain, but disputes reading to be taught and conscious. In Wolf’s work it informs that the neurons of the brain begin to adapt to the environment, demanding to develop in new troubled areas. Carr also refers to the alleged style change of Nietzsche’s writing from his typewriter, introducing the idea of how the human brain conforms to the very quality it is exposed to, mirroring patterns and functions, like that of Nietzsche, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts,” he concludes “…we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies.” (Carr 5) Carr interprets the internet as another environment that the brain will adapt to eventually.
Because the internet is one of the greatest omnipresent and life changing technologies in our world, the changes in the mind is obvious, but Carr also argues the changes in human behavior. The net supports cognitive distractions with a multitude of popups and ads, along with easy accessed hyperlinks and intriguing headlines. However, the hyperlinks aren’t the only culprit, we crave knowledge and the net is there to present our weaknesses. Our malleable brains are an upside, yet Carr opens the idea of the negatives. The internet’s quick accessibility allows us to jump from site to site without fully comprehending the information. The experiences we live through shapes our brains and affects it one way or another.
The conclusion of the article, introduces the skeptic ideas people hold throughout history, like that of Socrates who feared the shift from written to printed. The inevitable development of technology changes human cognition, however it also leads to new innovations that still thrive in our modern world. Socrates “couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge.” (Carr 9). Human computational processes are quickened using Google and other knowledge search engines and have the potential of taking possession of the human ability to generate knowledge.
Technology has made an abundance of promises, ultimately to save us time; yet people in our modern world are still struggling to find time to make an appointment, finish homework, spend time with family, or even just have some alone time. Carr analyzes a critical issue when he observes the continuous decline of lengthened text we read, along with our crippled skill to understand for ourselves, and the need for us to read more of the classics, because of our constant use of technology.
However, the arraignment of Google being the only culprit is erroneous, as the use of the net and technology is rather a support to our constant need for information. It’s not the fact that “there aren’t enough hours in the day,” in fact people of our modern world have a bounty amount of time in comparison to those of our ancestors. It’s in fact, as Carr states, that our minds are influenced greatly by external factors, and with our modern mentality of a “Go! Go!” life style, we grow accustomed to not just wanting more but needing more. Potent media and quick communication are manifestations of our rapacious need for information. Complaints of technologies oversaturation in our society is logical, yet we sign up for premium cable, fast internet, unlimited data and more. When there is no more time in our schedules, we still make more plans.
Our need for information is in fact the fault of the net, as it has eliminated isolation. The world has developed to be more complicated, having things becoming more relevant, and what happens seems to matter a whole lot more to us. We need to learn more because our connections are only increasing and becoming more complex. One can manage to live life without fully knowing Donald Trump, but they cannot completely participate in society without knowing something about him. It is evident that every social group has their own famous public figure, as I am expected to know Albert Einstein and his famous equation, E=mc², for class.
People naturally adapt to the world through survival by depending on our intimate knowledge of our environment. As our environment grows and becomes more diverse, we must try to comprehend our global community with the minds built for a small village. It is not that we are getting stupider, instead the development of technology is demanding us to get smarter. Ceding depth for broadness, causing us to summarize, skim, and altogether look over the fine print, remaining aloof to the fine points. We know our schedules are full, but we do what we can to get things done.