Is Google Making Us Stupid?
The article by Nicholas Carr, the author of a very interesting book “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google”, published in the year of 2008, is thoroughly discussing the effects, made by computerizing in general. It touches upon the spread of the Internet on human psychology, and particularly, on the way people comprehend written information on the cognitive function of the brain. The author starts with analyzing his own feelings regarding reading habits, which, as he feels, have changed, since he started to actively use computer and the Internet. According to the author’s observations, he started to find it difficult to read longer fractions of written text. He explains it as a result of being used to “surf” information online. Carr explains that by browsing the Internet, we hardly stop at a particular place, and allow ourselves to be absorbed by the reading. Deep reading, as the author calls it, is not the case any more.
Mr. Carr also claims that many of his acquaintances, with whom he discussed this phenomenon, stated that that was the case with them as well. Of course, the author mentions that serious and long run experiments are still to be held, and major conclusions are to be made. Meanwhile, Carr also mentions the area of research studies, conducted by some of the scholars at London University College. The researchers thoroughly studied logs of two major scholarly resources, such being U.K. Educational Consortium and the British Library. The results of the research were impressive. The visitors in their majority would demonstrate a sort of skimming activity, jumping from one page to another, often leaving the web site without reading a single publication. An average visitor would read no more than three pages of an article or publication, before leaving the site.
The author believes that all these factors demonstrate that the way we read has changed drastically, since Internet has become a part of our every day routine.
Carr remembers how seriously concerned were antique and medieval philosophers, when printing appeared. They thought that the comparative availability of books might cause “intellectual laziness”. However, the effect was different. Maybe, some of the concerns did have the point, but in general, printing opened quite new horizons for the human kind.
We are used to thinking about our brain using the metaphor of a computer. We believe that it works just the way a computer does. Sometimes we feel like missing a larger hard drive, and yet, another module of DDR3 operative memory. Since the middle of the last century, people have been dreaming of creating a thinking computer, a machine with human intellect. Nonetheless, the author is concerned that by using the Internet more and more intensely, by integrating computer technologies deeper into our lives, we risk to flatten our brains to the level of a computer processor, instead of making the processor, which may be compared to a human brain.
The concerns, discussed by the author, are quite realistic. The problem he discusses is indeed very serious, and probably, every thinking person does have this concern as well. However, the philosophers of the past did make a mistake, being concerned with the appearance of printed books. They just could not foresee all the changes this invention would provoke. It may very well be that the change in our reading habits is not as bad in the long run perspective. Maybe it is just another phase of our evolution, another phase of the intellectual transformation. Without a doubt, the time will show.