The best-selling author of The Big Switch returns with an explosive look at technology’s effect on the mind.
“Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question in an 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 Internet’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?
Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration yet published of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences. Weaving insights from philosophy, neuroscience, and history into a rich narrative, The Shallows explains how the Internet is rerouting our neural pathways, replacing the subtle mind of the book reader with the distracted mind of the screen watcher. A gripping story of human transformation played out against a backdrop of technological upheaval, The Shallows will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.
©2010 Nicholas Carr (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Neuroscience and technology buffs, librarians, and Internet users will find this truly compelling.” (Library Journal)
“Cogent, urgent, and well worth reading.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Former Marine 4321, former State Department public diplomacy officer. Current USAF Public Affairs Specialist
First, as appropriate self-disclosure, I should note that the title and description of this book turned me off because I'm a technophile. However, I read books that I feel viscerally opposed to precisely because I feel opposed to them. I don't want my brain to get too narrow.
Even though I disagree with the concepts presented in this book, I'm giving it 4 stars because I think it adds a valid argument to the overall discussion on the impact of the Internet and it's impact.
That said, my initial response to a lot of his points was that they were valid. Some of the points in this book are valid. The increasing "drinking from a fire hydrant" feeling of information overload is undeniably real. The problem with this book is that he compares our current life to the "good ol' days" when people read more deeply, wrote more deeply, etc. And even he notes that those were the rich elite. In fact, in the good ol' days, most of the world was illiterate.
My cousin is a construction work and my brother installs security cameras for a living. Both claim they hated high school and neither could tolerate much more formal education. My brother choked down some university courses because he was able earn GI Bill beer money as a result.
Still, decades ago, my conversations with them lacked depth and range. Today, my brother is well versed on a wide variety of science, technology, politics, global events. I'm amazed at the conversations I have with both of them and with other family members who eschewed formal education.
Not only is technology bringing people with little interest in deep reading into the fold, its expanding the reach and range for those of us with an interest in everything. I've always loved to read, but years ago, I had to dedicate a week or two to a good book. Now, with my audible.com empowered iPod, I can consume a book in a day or two. This one included.
Japanese are surprisingly well-read; at least Tokyoites, owing to the hours they spend in commute on the Metro system. I learned to love my iPod when I was commuting by bus and metro in DC. I don't need a seat. I don't need to focus on bouncing words on a page to read. My iPod keeps dumping ideas into my brain as I step up onto the bus, touch my smart card to pay for the bus, walk down the stairs into the metro, pass through the turnstiles. My reading hours have been expanded to any time when I'm driving, walking, even exercising.
Sorry, the end result I see is more people with more data in their brains, processing more information and mulling it over in conversations. The world isn't getting more shallow, but it might getting "flat" er. Today, literacy rates throughout the world are climbing, access to a range of information. Globally, it's a good thing on the whole. I'm sure the intellectual elite are still reading just as deeply as ever before.
Thanks for the idea, though.
I thoroughly enjoyed this. I did not agree with some of his conclusions but enjoyed the discussions and he did try to show both sides of most arguments. He presents discussions of modern tools used to study the brain and our discovery of it remarkable plasticity. I also enjoyed his study on the history of reading and writing. His key premise is that most people are losing the ability and interest in reading long deep novels and they only want the quick reads such as we get off the internet articles and emails. I believe it is healthy to discuss these ideas but I do not think his results are universal. For one, I use the internet to downloads books that I would never have discovered otherwise. So it has enhanced my reading.
From 15 years of surfing, I've experienced many of the brain and concentration effects mentioned in this book. The Shallows has many good points on the cognitive perils of trying to read in a distraction-rich environment. I'm hoping that the narrative part of my brain at least has been preserved by listening to many, many audiobooks over the past 10+ years, including The Shallows.
An issue I find with audiobooks is that frequently, as with The Shallows, the reader reads slowly (but thankfully clearly). To compensate, I have to run the book at 2X on my iphone to get it up to a pace that more closely matches the best speed for full use of my brain's darting focus. Fortunately 2X doesn't distort it too much, and it's not ideal, but it works better than the alternative, which is going to sleep or into a reverie.
While I was hoping that the author would suggest leaning heavily on audiobooks to save the eyes (mine are over 50 years old and tire easily), free the hands and allow real focus on the material, the author seemed to have missed this point. Maybe he's not a big audiobook listener. I'm primarily a non-fiction kind of guy, but when you are talking fiction and a great reader is involved (Scott Brick, Kate Reading, Michael Kramer and Humphry Bower come to mind as amazing performers that add hugely to the experience, making it vicarious (see Influencer: the power to change anything for more info)). All versions have their use, but I'm for saving trees, space and paper when I don't know the book.
Other than that big missing (audiobooks), this book suffers from a lot of theme repetition (OK, I get it that paper books have a certain aesthetic, but usually my experience is with a paper version, I end up skimming much more than with an audiobook (skimming is almost zero) or kindle version). My issue, I realize, but it could be my brain was damaged by that 5 years 10 years ago of surfing without audiobook protection? So here's the cure, dear reader, not offered by the author: pleasure your brain with the audiobook version, buy the kindle version for reference, and get the paper version on acid free paper and nice binding to grace your shelf, please your eyes, and remind you that you did in fact, read that book.
The author alternates between discussing the history & current understanding of neuroscience, and the impact our online existence is having on our brains. He cites growing evidence of people's attenuated attention spans. So it's ironic that his writing style is so pedantic. Still, it is a thought-provoking work.
As for the production, they could have chosen a better narrator. Mr. Garcia's voice and style are better suited for dramatic works than exposition. I laughed each time he'd use a different voice when reading quotes from academic sources. Seriously?
Nicholas Carr's case is that every major new communication technology reshapes human thinking and behavior, and here we go again. Epic poetry recitation called for very different minds than reading on scrolls, and the public reading of hand-copied books was very different for society from the personal and silent and plentiful reading possible with Gutenberg's contribution, the printed book.
Now there is a new reading technology in town, and it's about jumping from link to link, rushing to search out and consume little bites of information out of context. This will change us and already has, he says: we can no longer easily focus and concentrate on "deep reading," as in books.
He made his case, in my opinion, though as every communication technology is irresistable, I don't know what we can do about it. One of the changes he describes in the historical scene is that books used to be read aloud, but that changed to silent personal reading. No, but wait.........being read to seems to have made quite a come-back.
The narrator is very clear, using the expressionless style of nonfiction reading. In this case, it worked well. I recommend this thought-provoking but entertaining study of the new ways of reading and the history of reading.
An exhaustive study...with plenty of backup and research. I'll admit that I'd already felt the way we live today - essentially in sound bites and rapid fire "subject heading" attention spans,was changing the say we think. I'm a 52 year old male who has been a multi-tasker most of my life, and the internet has aided in that - to no end. While I feel much more efficient and productive (and knowledgeable) , I now realize most of it is pretty superficial and the list of 'mostly or half finished' projects grows daily... It's time to get a grip. There is a lot to keep the listener engaged but it's a long book...and at times found myself drifting - perhaps another victim of that brain modification! (Joke, sorta)
Stumbled upon audio books a little while ago and I enjoy them now. I mostly listen to books related to science, Buddhism, and some fantasy.
The premise of this book is using the internet seems to be changing our brain makeup, not necessarily for the better or worst.
Some parts were a bit drawn out, but overall I quite enjoyed listening to this book. First, the author goes through great pains to setup and create a comprehensive environment to explain his theory, and then goes on with supportive arguments, research, and citations. Of course some references seem to be cherry picked to support the author's point of view, but the fact these papers exist at all in creditable research should give pause to reflect on.
The biggest opponent I found to this book is the preconceived notions from the readers themselves before they start reading. It seems people either agree, or disagree, quite strongly with what is presented here with little basis on facts to support their subjective opinions.
I found the narration to be excellent, and recommend this book for those interrested.
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The research and stories are very interesting and very important as we head into an increasingly-digital future. Engaging and valuable.
This is one of the most interesting books I've "read" in a long time. As one of the previous reviewers noted, it's a bit ironic to be listening to this particular book rather than reading it in hard copy [and listening while using a treadmill to boot!]. I thought that both the content and the reader were excellent. Highly recommended.
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