In “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, published in an online magazine The Atlantic on July 1, 2008, Nicholas Carr explains the significant effect the Internet has on cognitive patterns and behavior. Providing evidence from his own and others’ experiences, as well as citing conducted studies and historical accounts, Carr builds a cynical argument for the dangers of expansion in digital media influence. He lists the various effects excessive Internet use has on concentration, attention, contemplation abilities, and thought processes. Although Carr clearly expresses his negative view on the long-term effects of the Internet on the human brain, he points out the possibility of his mistake.
Throughout the article, Carr builds an argument around his own concerns for the future of the human brain in the highly technologically advanced age. He utilizes anecdotes from the lives of his acquaintances and himself in order to demonstrate the diminishing attention span and fragmented concentration abilities of those that often use the Internet. Carr hypothesizes that the changes to the reading patterns can be attributed to the abundance of easily accessible information online, providing people with a constant influx of content.
Furthermore, Carr points out the negative effect the way Internet presents information has on the individuals’ ability to process complex information instead of accepting it as it is presented to them. According to Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University, who is quoted by Carr, the main purpose of information presentation todays is “efficiency” and “immediacy” (2008). Therefore, the learned ability to contemplate long complex texts is not being practiced enough and is at a risk of disappearing.
Moreover, Carr provides biological reasons for the cognitive changes that appear in the brain due to the long and consistent use of the Net. According to the author, who cites Wolf, there are proven and studied differences in the brain processes and structure of those that use the alphabet and those that use ideograms. Therefore, Carr speculates, there is likely to be a similar differential pattern between those that prefer short and efficiency-oriented texts on the Internet over the longer printed works. Furthermore, Carr points out the brain’s plasticity and the fact that, unlike what was believed previously, the adult brain is prone to changes in its chemical and physiological structure.
Carr also challenges his own believes by addressing the historical accounts of cynicism towards new technology that have since proven to be short-sighted in their fears. The author emphasizes that there is a possibility of the new way of thinking being beneficial in ways that the people of today cannot yet fathom. He asserts that due to the lack of research into the subject, it is difficult to make completely supported claims.
Carr concludes with a warning for his readers on the financial and otherwise questionable motivation of the digital and non-digital media and their strategies. He summarizes Google’s goal to optimize the search engine in a way that creates an Artificial Intelligence supplementary or even “smarter than” human brain (Carr, 2008). Commenting on it, he expresses his concern of whether the human brain is better off becoming more systematized and explains the importance of “quiet spaces” that allow for contemplation (Carr, 2008). Overall, Carr holds the view of the newly transformed brain processes as detrimental to the human cognition and nature. He ends his article with his interpretation of Kubric’s 2001 as an ominous warning that suggests the slow transformation of the human brain into the artificial intelligence humans create to facilitate thinking tasks.
Carr, N. (2008). Is Google Making Us Stupid? The Atlantic. Web.