The Modern Enemy of Our Brains

The Modern Enemy of Our Brains
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains book cover. Author: Nicholas Carr

by Jacob Weymier

What is the problem with the Internet and how can it hurt you? Nicholas Carr provides the answer in his book called The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. He talks about how the brain works and how the Internet makes the brain have shallower thoughts rather than deep concentration. He also talks about the goals of Google as a new medium of study and artificial intelligence. This book will enlighten one on the dangers and threatening use of this new technology.

Nicholas Carr has long written about the Internet and its influence on us. In a previous book called The Big Switch Carr talks about how Google uses the Internet and its motives. The very readable 224-page The Shallows describes his own experience and findings about the Internet and how it affects the brain.

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The main purpose of this book was to explain his experience with the Internet and how it changed him. Before the Internet manipulated the brain, he was able to read for long periods of time and concentrate on many things. Afterwards it became difficult for him to read for long periods of time and engage in deep reading. The mind would be fleeting between many different thoughts and thus could not concentrate for long periods of time on one thing.

After describing his experiences, Carr begins to talk about how the brain works. He explains how at different time periods when new technology came out it changed how people lived. Then he shows the effect the new medium is causing and how it could be changing many for the worse. For example, one experiment showed that people who used print copies versus those who used weblinks did better on answering the test questions. Carr also states that those who used the web changed between the links multiple times rather than reading through the whole article and thus showed a lesser understanding of the concept.

The Shallows then delves into how the brain reacts to using the Internet. People skim over and look at things for only a couple of seconds, then move on. This encourages superficial reading and less time for reflection on what was read. A Google agent herself stated what they want to achieve in this: “Our goal is to get users in and out really quickly. All our design decisions are based on that strategy.”

Carr then explains the goals of Google and what they intend to create in the future with regard to artificial intelligence. Larry Page, one of the founders of Google says, “Artificial Intelligence would be the ultimate version of Google. We’re nowhere near doing that now. However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on.”

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This book is fascinating and enables one to discover what the Internet does to those who use it. For those who have grown up using the web many can see the problems that Carr explains very well in his book. It is worth reading to know what to do to fight the dreadful influence that can change a person and their behavior. It is said that one must know the enemy if one is to fight it. Even though the Internet can be a useful tool, it can also be a treacherous device that changes one’s life forever.

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