“What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
― Nicholas G. Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction: “Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind.”—Michael Agger, Slate
“Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?
Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer—Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.
Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic—a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption—and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.
Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes—Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive—even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds. (From Amazon.com)
A writer of books, essays and ephemera
Nicholas Carr writes about technology and culture. His most recent book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, is a 2011 Pulitzer Prize finalist and a New York Times bestseller. His forthcoming book, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, will be published this fall. Nick is also the author of two other influential books, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google (2008) and Does IT Matter? (2004).
His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Nick has been a columnist for the Guardian in London and has written for the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, the New Republic, MIT Technology Review, and other periodicals. His essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” has been collected in several anthologies, including The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009, The Best Spiritual Writing 2010, and The Best Technology Writing 2009.
Nick is a former member of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s editorial board of advisors, was on the steering board of the World Economic Forum’s cloud computing project, and was a writer-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley.
He writes the popular blog Rough Type. Earlier in his career, he was executive editor of the Harvard Business Review.
He holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.A., in English and American Literature and Language, from Harvard University.
In the early 1980s, Nick was a founding member of the underwhelming Connecticut punk band The Adrenaline Boys.
By Nicholas Carr