The internet is continously becoming a bigger part of our lives and there’s some concern about the effect this is having on us. Nicholas Carr tackles this issue in The Shallows, seeking to find out what impact this has on the way our brains operate and the effect on our society.
Most of the book concentrates on the way we surf the web and the amount of knowledge we gain from it. A company like Google is built up on gathering content, with their business built up on clicks. We skim over many stories but deep understanding seems to be on the wane. Carr explains how our brains are literally being rewired as a result of this. There’s a lot of talk about information overload and what we’re meant to do with all this stuff we’ve got free and easy access to. What can’t be understood yet is whether this will be put to some solid use as people are able to develop new cognitive habits that enable them to navigate large amounts of information and find the material that is of use.
Carr asks if this is something we really want? Searching through books on Google will find us the snippets and quotes we’re looking for but won’t give us context and depth. We’re losing out on deep, meditative reading and unable to gain a full understanding of the material. It’s getting to the stage now where remembering things is seen by many as a waste of time but Carr argues that this is a dangerous process. Information is being served to us from algorithms and we just follow the script. Our attention span is constantly being eroded as we’re only able to process short pieces of information at a time.
The Shallows is a brilliantly researched work that puts forward a real case for stepping back a bit from the web. He’s no Luddite and is a big fan of the many great things the internet has to offer. Reading a book these days really feels like a holiday as it gives me the chance to focus on one story and get really involved in it rather than constantly thinking about what I’m going to look up next online. This book will certainly persuade quite a few to limit their internet usage and think about where we might be going and the problems we could be walking into.