Does the Internet make us smarterNo, The Internet Won’t Make You Stupid
Nick Carr is worried the Internet is making us stupid. It’s not so much our preoccupation with LOLCat photos or videos of fat girls flying off of swings that concerns him as it is the way we read and consume information on the Internet itself. He thinks the Internet is rewiring our brains, perhaps for the worse, and he’s written a book to warn us all about it called The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains. Carr also finds links to be too distracting.
Carr raises some good points worth contemplating, but his arguments also strike me as incredibly self-serving. After all, he is an author who makes money writing books. Of course he is going to argue that they make you smarter than the Web, with all of its neurological distractions. Carr is the master of technological alarmism. It sells his books and provokes debate, and this time is no exception. Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker wrote in the New York Times on Friday that “cognitive neuroscientists roll their eyes at such talk,” and NYT Bits blogger Nick Bilton marshaled some other counter-evidence as well. Carr then responded to Pinker’s Op-Ed at length, claiming that Pinker has an “axe to grind here” because Carr’s point that experiences can change the brain on a cellular level “poses a challenge to Pinker’s faith in evolutionary psychology.” Of, course, Carr has his own axe to grind. Remember, he’s the one pushing the new book.
At the core of Carr’s alarmism is that the Web is simply at odds with deep, contemplative thought and reflection. It’s really a defense of book learning in its most basic form—again, not surprising coming from an author of books who values above all else the printed word. In an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal last week, Carr summed up his position:
When we’re constantly distracted and interrupted, as we tend to be online, our brains are unable to forge the strong and expansive neural...