Book review: The effects of the internet: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
Posted in: Internet Use/New Technologies at 28/06/2010 14:34
In 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic, a Benedictine abbot named Trithemius, living in western Germany, wrote a spirited defence of scribes who tried to impress God's word most firmly on their minds by copying out texts by hand. To disseminate his own books, though, Trithemius used the revolutionary technology of the day, the printing press. Nicholas Carr, an American commentator on the digital revolution, faces a similar dichotomy. A blogger and card-carrying member of the "digerati", he is worried enough about the internet to raise the alarm about its dangers to human thought and creativity.
The recent uproar over privacy on Facebook is only the latest backlash against man's newly wired existence. Mr Carr did his bit to encourage the anxiety in 2008 with an essay in the Atlantic entitled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" His new book is an expanded survey of the science and history of human cognition. Worry of this kind is not new: a decade ago, the first evidence suggested that PowerPoint changed not just how executives presented information, but also how they thought. Mr Carr's contribution is to offer the most readable overview of the science to date. It is clearly not intended as a jeremiad. Yet halfway through, he can't quite help but blurt out that the impact of this browsing on our brains is "even more disturbing" than he thought.