Writer urges Internet junkies to ‘switch off’ and think
He set out his concerns in a celebrated essay headlined “Is Google making us stupid?”
And his latest book “The Shallows” explores in depth what he fears the Internet is doing to our brains.
“The seductions of technology are hard to resist,” Carr acknowledges in that book, which has sold an estimated 50,000 hardback copies in the United States alone. But he thinks it’s time to start trying.
In a speech at last week’s Seoul Digital Forum and an interview with AFP, Carr restated his concerns that IT is affecting the way people think and feel and even the physical make-up of their brains.
Every new technology in history — like the map and the clock — changed the way people think but Carr sees special dangers in the Internet.
He got his first PC back in the 1980s and was an avid net user until “a few years ago, I noticed some disturbing changes in the way my mind worked. I was losing the ability to concentrate.”
While the Internet has enormous benefits in delivering incredible amounts of information at incredible speed, it’s also a distracting and interruption-rich environment.
Carr said it encourages quick shifts in focus — and discourages sustained attention and the ability to think deeply and creatively about one topic and to challenge conventional wisdom.
Popularity-driven search engines, in one of the ironies of an information-rich Internet, worsen the problem by leading everyone to the same sources, he said.
Social networks, while pleasurable and fun, increase distractedness by bombarding users with brief bits of information.
“We take in so much information so quickly that we are in a constant state of cognitive overload,” Carr argued.