Is the Internet making us stupid? This provocative question lies at the centre of Nicholas Carr‘s suspiciously successful tome, The Shallows, ominously sub-titled What the Internet is doing to our brains. (And yes, that means yours!) Such a title would readily excuse the reader of expecting a blimpish and sensationalist book, extolling the supposed virtues of chalk on blackboards, cold water and musty books. Yet, colour us surprised, this particular work turns out to be one of the rare cogent arguments in favour of a more careful, of a more measured approach to all things networked.
Drawing from personal experience, from evolutionary psychology and from bona-fide modern science, the author convincingly explains how efficiently the Internet causes our brains to shift focus and structure. While careful to point out that a change in how we think is not necessarily detrimental, he convincingly underlines how our new methods bring us back, almost full-circle, to those we used before traditional reading saw the light of day in the early Renaissance. He also demonstrates how our new, stimuli-addled thought processes deprive us of highly beneficial down-time during which our subconscious mind expresses its full creative potential.
The Shallows should interest everybody. It is, however, an especially insightful book for online creatives who depend on the very medium that seems to be robbing us of part of our creative force. Without refusing progress, there is no doubt we ought to control the extent to which we welcome it into our lives. Hopefully this book will provide some draft answers.