When Nicholas Carr begs the question “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” he’s referencing the drawn out debate over online involvement in our lives, debating over the precedence web-surfing takes over day-to-day interactions, attention spans, and the conceptual analysis of machines replacing machines – our newly altered forms punching keys like drones, that is. There’s a depth to the shallow remarks – “My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think” – that exude humility and provocative reflection amongst us all. Indeed, that sole statement allowed the self-questioning of one’s ability to control the senses, or moreover inflicts that depiction; when a nonhuman entity remaps the way in which we think, we are only going backwards as interactive life forms.
Carr’s anecdote regarding reading a simple book hollers truth to a common conception about attention spans. The modern day web user will browse multiple applications – hence the rise in “apps” on mobile phones – and latest technology supplies undivided access rates with impressively improving pace, thanks to advancements in data. Reading a book lacks the same interactive elements that keep the current generation of media users focussed; the dearth in purchased hardbacks supports that theory, perhaps attributed to the Internet’s ability to supply demand instantly. Ebooks provide the same information, just without the process of physically buying a hard copy. The lack of intimacy that walks hand in hand with splitting our attention threatens to create an environment revoking meaningful relationships with each other, but also in our appliances. Carr’s struggle to maintain a compassion for words on paper does not lay in the content, but the medium in which that content is displayed.
The ability of ‘first, fast, now!’ certainly accentuates the ever-busying lifestyles of an overworked society, but as Carr relates “that boom comes at a price”. The passage of thought through this universal medium isn’t a singular-serving mechanism either; it’s shaping the process of thought, too, he implies. The art of “skim reading” has taken form as somewhat of a re-rise in scholarly study and there’s no clues as to why. An interchangeable cyber culture constantly updating itself provides too much information, in my opinion. It’s impossible to keep completely up-to-date and coherently attentive to the products of our interests, respectfully due to information’s unsolicited border expansions. Once we think we know what we’re informed, we find new evidence that can benefit previous interpretations, either to reinforce, deny or contrast a perspective. The universal hunger to immerse in knowledge travels from a good place, but distorts and meanders its mode and mediums to transact something mind-altering. Literally, the ability to change the way we think.
Carr recognizes the Net’s talent in consuming varying mediums, an absorption rendering software appliances and singular-serving mechanisms useless – no, worse, redundant and inactive. By that theory, I believe we’ll fall into a new trap: losing the concept of those mediums, and trusting/expecting the Internet to provide reminders or info on those mediums even when we don’t ask for it. After all, the Internet traces our habits now and spies on our preferences. However, materialism or accessories are less harmful. When something important, like time, becomes a solely digital enterprise, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. It takes one mild time-related corruption to destroy our schedules, and we’d have wished for the physical validation of a watch. As Carr states: “Then again, the Internet isn’t the alphabet…” and I can’t help but hear a profundity, lost.