Google is changing the way our brains function and process information, which consequently has a negative impact on various areas of our brain. Carr presents several personal anecdotes that prove his brain has been negatively impacted by the internet. Carr also brings in outside sources to confirm that he is not the only one being affected. Lastly Carr shows that humans have been altering their brains and beliefs for over a century amidst the ever changing technological world. While I find Carr’s point about the negative impact the internet is having on our brain to be convincing; some people may not be as easily convinced. Only time and rigorous studying of the brain will be able to definitively prove to the naysayers that it indeed is having a negative effect.
“Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski” (Carr, 57). The use of metaphor and simile by Carr is profound here. If you’re someone who used to enjoy enveloping themselves into a great book you can probably relate to this statement. Unfortunately, for Carr, this seems to have become his norm when trying to read deeply. Carr makes it clear he doesn’t believe his mind is “going” but that it is “changing”. In Carr’s words “I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading” (57). The obvious culprit for his inability to remain focused? The internet. Carr does commend the internet for drastically reducing the amount of time he previously spent researching. However it has come at a price, “my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do”(Carr, 57). Sound familiar? I’ve found this to be true in my own experiences and also know friends that have dealt with the same issue. It really makes you wonder if there is something more going on…
At this point we all know how Carr feels about the internet and how it is affecting his brain. With that being said I’d like to discuss his colleagues’ experiences and how they’ve been affected. We’ll start with Bruce Friedman, “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” (58). Friedman is a well revered pathologist employed at the University of Michigan Medical School. Friedman clearly displays concern with the internet and how it is affecting his attention span and ability to read deeply. If Friedman’s remarks aren’t convincing enough maybe Maryanne Wolf will sway your opinion. Wolf is a developmental psychologist at Tufts University. She is disturbed by the way we are reading and how the internet promotes this change. “We are not only what we read, We are how we read.”(Wolf, 58). Wolf continues to talk about how reading is not an innate skill, it takes repetition and commitment to learn how to read, and to be good at it. If this is true, I think it’s fair to say the way we are reading on the internet is becoming the norm for our brains. This is because the majority of people spend MUCH MORE time browsing the web than immersed into a piece of literature. I think most people would agree that this is problematic, unless you are Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page are the extremely intelligent, young men who founded Google back in 1998. Since then Google has become a household name. There’s no doubt that what they created is nothing short of incredible, however, how it has changed over the last 2 decades is something to be leery of. A statement from Brin himself “ Certainly if you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you’d be better off” (62). This comment to me is rather alarming and imagine it would be to most people. Where do we draw the line? A lot of what Google speaks of all sounds very Black Mirror esque. Black Mirror is a show on Netflix that is based in the future, each episode showcasing some sort of new technology. Can you guess how it normally ends? It’s not pretty, and I can’t help thinking of Google when they start making statements like the one above.
Now surely, not all technology has been detrimental to our society. Carr highlights previous technologies to prove this. For example, Gutenberg’s printing press. At the time, there were many people who were threatened by its arrival and saw it as being destructive for our intellect and our faith in religion. We now know those statements to be untrue. Fast forward to 1882 we have Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher who was influenced by Aristotle,Plato, Socrates and other well known philosophers. Nearing the end of his life Nietzsche started to go blind and knew he needed to find a new instrument that wouldn’t require his vision in order to express himself. This is where the typewriter comes in. German media scholar comments on Nietzsche’s writing saying that it “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.” (60). A comment from Nietzsche makes me wonder about the effects different writing instruments have on my own work “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” (60). Perhaps the internet is playing a part in forming our thoughts when we type on a computer and conduct research online. Scholars and the general public are starting to become aware of the effects. What we do next with this emerging scientific knowledge as a society, will directly impact the future of the technological world and humanity.
Maybe Google will end up doing all of the things they talk about. They have already begun to infiltrate our minds by affecting the way we read and process information. Carr made that quite clear in his article. You don’t have to just take Carr’s word for it though. Try limiting the amount of time you spend online and see if it has an impact on your attention span. Maybe you will notice a difference in another aspect of your life as well. We are living in a time of constant change that feels uncontrollable and uncomfortable at times. It’s time to take back control of our minds.