Nicholas Carr’s Atlantic Online article “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” discusses how the use of the computer affects our thought process. Carr starts out talking about his own experience as a writer and how he felt like “something had been tinkering with his brain, remapping his neural circuitry and reprogramming his memory”. Since starting to use the Internet his research techniques have changed. Carr said before he would immerse himself in books, lengthy articles and long stretches of prose allowing his “mind to get caught up in the narrative or the arguments”(July/August 2008, Atlantic Monthly). Today Carr has found that “his concentration drifts away from the text after several pages and he struggles to get back into the text”. His premise is that since he has spent the past ten years working online, searching and surfing and writing content for databases” his brain circuitry has changed. He indicates that some of his fellow writers have experienced the same kinds of changes in their reading books and maintaining concentration. Some of them said they do not read books as easily because their concentration and focus has become shorter.
In analyzing Carr’s premise, I find both strengths and weaknesses. His assertion is that use of the Internet and resources like Google actually change the nature of our brain. Yet he reaches this assumption with mere anecdotal data, pointing to his own experience and that of “friends and acquaintances.” He sites their difficulties with reading long books and passages—even blogs over three or four paragraphs. Nowhere in his article does Carr make reference to legitimate studies that go beyond that small group of people, all of which may have similar levels of education, income, career, family demands, stress levels. In my judgment, to be more than just an opinion piece, these factors and other demographic and psychographic factors must be considered across a wide range of people. In