Nicholas Carr - Your brain vs. the internet

The cover of The Shallows
First aired on The Current  (07/02/10)

The internet is poisoning your brain.

No, really. It is. At least that's what Nicholas Carr would have you believe. He's the author of The Shallows, a new book that takes a look at what spending so much time hooked up to technology is doing to our internal wiring. And the results of his research don't look very encouraging.

According to Carr, being constantly aware of the shifting of information — an awareness so extensive that a lot of us receive constant "alerts," requiring us to shift time and attention on an increasing basis — has changed the way we think, making our thought processes more superficial.

In other words, it's getting a lot harder, and therefore a lot more uncommon, for people to spend time in deep thought. So uncommon, in fact, that the mere act of sitting down without distractions can feel awkward.

Carr worries that people are moving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters and gatherers in an electronic dataforce. The internet has brought the knowledge of the world to our fingertips, but Carr argues that merely having ready access to it doesn't make us, well, ... smart. Real knowledge, according to Carr, is not external. It occurs inside us. It is what allows us to make connections between ideas.

In an interview with the CBC's Piya Chattopadhyay, Carr warned that the loss of deep contemplative thinking might affect more than school test scores.

"Culture is built on people's ability to be attentive and think deeply about one thing," Carr said. "I worry that we'll be seeing the basic foundations of cultural richness begin to crumble as we don't pay attention anymore."

That is, unless you consider lol cats and box cats and keyboard cats high cultural knowledge. Either way, isn't it time you checked your e-mail?

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