Carr 2008 Is Google Making Us Stupid_ - TECHNOLOGY Is Google Making Us Stupid What the Internet is doing to our brains NICHOLAS CARR JULY\/AUGUST 2008

Carr 2008 Is Google Making Us Stupid_ - TECHNOLOGY Is...

This preview shows page 1 - 3 out of 13 pages.

Illustration by Guy Billout"Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So thesupercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in afamous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end ofStanley Kubrick’s2001: ASpace Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by themalfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits thatcontrol its artificial “ brain. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I canfeel it. I can feel it.”I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense thatsomeone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neuralT E C H N O L O G YIs Google Making Us Stupid?What the Internet is doing to our brainsN I C H O L A S C A R RJ U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 0 8 I S S U E
circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most stronglywhen I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy.My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’dspend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the caseanymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I getfidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’malways dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used tocome naturally has become a struggle.I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending alot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the greatdatabases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Researchthat once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now bedone in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’vegot the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m aslikely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets’reading and writing e-mails,scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, orjust tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimeslikened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you towardthem.)For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit formost of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. Theadvantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store ofinformation are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded.“The perfect recall of silicon memory,”Wired’s Clive Thompsonhas written, “canbe an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the mediatheoristMarshall McLuhanpointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passivechannels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape theprocess of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture