Is Google Making Us Stupid?
By Nicholas Carr
Adapted from The Atlantic Monthly July 2008
“Dave, stop. Stop Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:A Space Odyssey. Dave Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial brain. “Dave, my brain is going,” HAL says forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.” I can feel it, too. Over the past few years, I’ve had the uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going, so far as I can tell, but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think.
I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the various arguments, and I’d spend hours strolling through long pages of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the train of thought, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my distracted brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.
I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, surfing and searching the great databases of the Internet. I’m researching, reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. For me, as for others, the Net is becoming the universal medium, the source for most of the information that flows through my eyes and into my mind. The advantage of having such an incredibly rich source of information is great, but it comes at a price. As the media theorist...
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