The Shallows | Nicholas Carr

Have you ever tried to read a book—the sort of book you could lose yourself in only a few years ago—only to find yourself fidgety and distracted? That symptom, described by Carr and attested to by some of his friends, resonated with me as well. The symptom is a result of, as the book subtitle reads, “what the internet is doing to our brains.” If you’ve ever felt this way, you owe it to your brain to read Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows.

Not many people paint the internet in unfavourable terms. It’s the information superhighway, an unlimited source of information and connectivity at our fingertips, and our biggest distraction. Our short-term memory can only hold amount of data. It takes time to ship that data into our long-term memory. The internet, with its style of reading which combines multimedia and hyperlinks, overfills our short-term memory and shortcuts our ability to digest information.

Some suggest that filling our long-term memory with data is pointless now, since we can Google it in a heartbeat online. Carr takes the idea of internet-as-external-memory to task. Our long-term memories actually make us who we are. It’s not enough to know where data is located: it has to be absorbed to form a worldview.

Carr’s book isn’t one-sided—he’s no Luddite. There are incredible benefits added to the human experience by the internet. Carr’s persuading us to be informed about how it is changing the way we think.

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