The Shallows

What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Carr, Nicholas G.

Book - 2010
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Shallows
"Is Google making us stupid?" When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net's bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet's intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by "tools of the mind"--from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer--Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic--a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption--and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes--Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive--even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.

Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0393072223
Branch Call Number: Non-F 612.802 Car


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Sep 14, 2014
  • WVMLStaffPicks rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

What impact has the Internet had on our brains? How has it changed the way we think? Nicholas Carr, with the same deft touch he used in his previous novel The Big Switch, interweaves the history of reading and technology with neuroscience and sociology. Using concrete examples, interviews, and personal accounts, this book approaches the changes that have occurred and questions what the future might look like.

Apr 02, 2013
  • ascherer rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

The book relates a number of experiments that point to the idea that Internet affects both the way we think and the very organic structure of our brain. According to the author and the scientific experiments he refers to, Internet develops multitasking and indexing capabilities in our brains: where to find the information rather than knowing the information itself. Because our working memory is so constantly and intensely solicited we don't think as deeply and reflexively as we used to. This adversely impact our creativity and our ability to empathize.
The book is well written and "talked" to me as I could relate to many experiences described in it based on my own usage of the Internet.

Apr 07, 2012
  • tinfoiling rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

One of the most interesting books that puts into perspective what is happening to us when it comes to usage of the Internet.

Mar 27, 2012
  • Jean-Pierre Lebel rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

If you've noticed that your attention span has shortened over the past decade, this book may be a good place to start. Nicholas Carr makes a strong case for how our dependence on the Internet is changing the structure of our brains. Siting many studies, surveys and experiments he presents abundant evidence to support his thesis: we are changing from a linear deep learning process to a multitasking, rapid information acquiring process that is shallow. He also takes a stab at Google and their contribution this phenomenon. For the most part this is a well written and thoroughly researched book. Near the end the author seems to go off on a few tangents that I found curious. Overall this book is recommended for anyone. It left me aware that "mindful" web browsing will take some training and personal effort.

Oct 15, 2011
  • GuyN rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Despite the rather sensationalist title this is a reasonable balanced presentation of recent research into our brains and what our growing use of the Internet may mean for the future. After pointing out that the changes neuroplasticity (get used to the word) enables in our brain from daily hours of Net use seem to increase our ability to scan multiple options and make decisions quickly Carr laments the probability that ability to do deep reading will atrophy (supported by research he cites.) This book will make you think hard and deep. It is itself deep reading, although Proust and the Squid (also on brain changes) would be a more apt example of the concept.

May 04, 2011
  • kpjorgen rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Interesting and relevant read for those concerned with how far the internet has intruded into our culture and consciousness.

Jan 03, 2011
  • JohnFDavidson rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A thought provoking book. We are shaped by the medium of communication much more than we realize. The author uses example of Socrates who we all know of, but not through his own written words, but by those especially of Plato. That is because Socrates did not feel written words were as useful as spoken words where you are required to develop your memory as you develop your thinking. Today it is often said that the good thing about the inter-net is all the information available and that the bad thing about the inter-net is all the information available. The author points out that with all this information that average person flits from one website or page to another quickly trying to extract something of interest or value, but quickly moving on. In the future success will come to those who can quickly extract something of value, rather than those who study in depth and reach a better understanding before venturing a new idea.


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Jun 10, 2013
  • username32 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

username32 thinks this title is suitable for All Ages


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