The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

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Overview

Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction: “Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind.”—Michael Agger, Slate
“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 ...

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Overview

Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction: “Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind.”—Michael Agger, Slate
“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.

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Editorial Reviews

Ellen Wernecke
“The Shallows isn’t McLuhan’s Understanding Media, but the curiosity rather than trepidation with which Carr reports on the effects of online culture pulls him well into line with his predecessor . . . Carr’s ability to crosscut between cognitive studies involving monkeys and eerily prescient prefigurations of the modern computer opens a line of inquiry into the relationship between human and technology.”
Newsweek
“A must-read for any desk jockey concerned about the Web’s deleterious effects on the mind.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“This is a lovely story well told—an ode to a quieter, less frenetic time when reading was more than skimming and thought was more than mere recitation.”
The 2011 Pulitzer Prize Committee
“A thought provoking exploration of the Internet’s physical and cultural consequences, rendering highly technical material intelligible to the general reader.”
Salon
The Shallows certainly isn't the first examination of this subject, but it's more lucid, concise and pertinent than similar works ... An essential, accessible dispatch about how we think now.— Laura Miller
BusinessWeek
Persuasive ... A prolific blogger, tech pundit, and author, [Carr] cites enough academic research in The Shallows to give anyone pause about society's full embrace of the Internet as an unadulterated force for progress . . . Carr lays out, in engaging, accessible prose, the science that may explain these results.— Peter Burrows
Chicago Tribune
Another reason for book lovers not to throw in the towel quite yet is The Shallows...a quietly eloquent retort to those who claim that digital culture is harmless—who claim, in fact, that we're getting smarter by the minute just because we can plug in a computer and allow ourselves to get lost in the funhouse of endless hyperlinks.— Julia Keller
Financial Times
The subtitle of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains leads one to expect a polemic in the tradition of those published in the 1950s about how rock ’n’ roll was corrupting the nation’s youth ... But this is no such book. It is a patient and rewarding popularization of some of the research being done at the frontiers of brain science ... Mild-mannered, never polemical, with nothing of the Luddite about him, Carr makes his points with a lot of apt citations and wide-ranging erudition.— Christopher Caldwell
Information Week
You really should read Nicholas Carr's The Shallows . . . Far from offering a series of rants on the dangers of new media, Carr spends chapters walking us through a variety of historical experiments and laymen's explanations on the workings of the brain . . . He makes the research stand on end, punctuating it with pithy conclusions and clever phrasing.— Fritz Nelson
Wall Street Journal
Absorbing [and] disturbing. We all joke about how the Internet is turning us, and especially our kids, into fast-twitch airheads incapable of profound cogitation. It's no joke, Mr. Carr insists, and he has me persuaded.— John Horgan
The New York Times Book Review
This is a measured manifesto. Even as Carr bemoans his vanishing attention span, he’s careful to note the usefulness of the Internet, which provides us with access to a near infinitude of information. We might be consigned to the intellectual shallows, but these shallows are as wide as a vast ocean.— Jonah Lehrer
Matthew B. Crawford
“The core of education is this: developing the capacity to concentrate. The fruits of this capacity we call civilization. But all that is finished, perhaps. Welcome to the shallows, where the un-educating of homo sapiens begins. Nicholas Carr does a wonderful job synthesizing the recent cognitive research. In doing so, he gently refutes the ideologists of progress, and shows what is really at stake in the daily habits of our wired lives: the re-constitution of our minds. What emerges for the reader, inexorably, is the suspicion that we have well and truly screwed ourselves.”
Dana Gioia
“Nicholas Carr carefully examines the most important topic in contemporary culture—the mental and social transformation created by our new electronic environment. Without ever losing sight of the larger questions at stake, he calmly demolishes the clichés that have dominated discussions about the Internet. Witty, ambitious, and immensely readable, The Shallows actually manages to describe the weird, new, artificial world in which we now live.”
Tom Vanderbilt
“Neither a tub-thumpingly alarmist jeremiad nor a breathlessly Panglossian ode to the digital self, Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows is a deeply thoughtful, surprising exploration of our “frenzied” psyches in the age of the Internet. Whether you do it in pixels or pages, read this book.”
Maryanne Wolf
“Ultimately, The Shallows is a book about the preservation of the human capacity for contemplation and wisdom, in an epoch where both appear increasingly threatened. Nick Carr provides a thought-provoking and intellectually courageous account of how the medium of the Internet is changing the way we think now and how future generations will or will not think. Few works could be more important.”
Elizabeth Kolbert
“Nicholas Carr has written an important and timely book. See if you can stay off the web long enough to read it!”
Laura Miller - Salon
“The Shallows certainly isn't the first examination of this subject, but it's more lucid, concise and pertinent than similar works ... An essential, accessible dispatch about how we think now.”
Peter Burrows - BusinessWeek
“Persuasive ... A prolific blogger, tech pundit, and author, [Carr] cites enough academic research in The Shallows to give anyone pause about society's full embrace of the Internet as an unadulterated force for progress . . . Carr lays out, in engaging, accessible prose, the science that may explain these results.”
Julia Keller - Chicago Tribune
“Another reason for book lovers not to throw in the towel quite yet is The Shallows...a quietly eloquent retort to those who claim that digital culture is harmless—who claim, in fact, that we're getting smarter by the minute just because we can plug in a computer and allow ourselves to get lost in the funhouse of endless hyperlinks.”
Christopher Caldwell - Financial Times
“The subtitle of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains leads one to expect a polemic in the tradition of those published in the 1950s about how rock ’n’ roll was corrupting the nation’s youth ... But this is no such book. It is a patient and rewarding popularization of some of the research being done at the frontiers of brain science ... Mild-mannered, never polemical, with nothing of the Luddite about him, Carr makes his points with a lot of apt citations and wide-ranging erudition.”
Fritz Nelson - Information Week
“You really should read Nicholas Carr's The Shallows . . . Far from offering a series of rants on the dangers of new media, Carr spends chapters walking us through a variety of historical experiments and laymen's explanations on the workings of the brain . . . He makes the research stand on end, punctuating it with pithy conclusions and clever phrasing.”
John Horgan - Wall Street Journal
“Absorbing [and] disturbing. We all joke about how the Internet is turning us, and especially our kids, into fast-twitch airheads incapable of profound cogitation. It's no joke, Mr. Carr insists, and he has me persuaded.”
Jonah Lehrer - The New York Times Book Review
“This is a measured manifesto. Even as Carr bemoans his vanishing attention span, he’s careful to note the usefulness of the Internet, which provides us with access to a near infinitude of information. We might be consigned to the intellectual shallows, but these shallows are as wide as a vast ocean.”
Jonah Lehrer
While Carr tries to ground his argument in the details of modern neuroscience, his most powerful points have nothing do with our plastic cortex. Instead, The Shallows is most successful when Carr sticks to cultural criticism, as he documents the losses that accompany the arrival of new technologies.
—The New York Times
Jonathan Safran Foer
“The best book I read last year — and by “best” I really just mean the book that made the strongest impression on me — was The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr. Like most people, I had some strong intuitions about how my life and the world have been changing in response to the Internet. But I could neither put those intuitions into an argument, nor be sure that they had any basis in the first place. Carr persuasively — and with great subtlety and beauty — makes the case that it is not only the content of our thoughts that are radically altered by phones and computers, but the structure of our brains — our ability to have certain kinds of thoughts and experiences. And the kinds of thoughts and experiences at stake are those that have defined our humanity. Carr is not a proselytizer, and he is no techno-troglodyte. He is a profoundly sharp thinker and writer — equal parts journalist, psychologist, popular science writer, and philosopher. I have not only given this book to numerous friends, I actually changed my life in response to it.”
Library Journal
Expanding on his provocative Atlantic Monthly article, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?," technology writer Carr (The Big Switch) provides a deep, enlightening examination of how the Internet influences the brain and its neural pathways. Computers have altered the way we work; how we organize information, share news and stories, and communicate; and how we search for, read, and absorb information. Carr's analysis incorporates a wealth of neuroscience and other research, as well as philosophy, science, history, and cultural developments. He investigates how the media and tools we use (including libraries) shape the development of our thinking and considers how we relate to and think about our brains. Carr also examines the impact of online searching on memory and explores the overall impact that the tools and media we use have on memory formation. His fantastic investigation of the effect of the Internet on our neurological selves concludes with a very humanistic petition for balancing our human and computer interactions. VERDICT Neuroscience and technology buffs, librarians, and Internet users will find this truly compelling. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/10; seven-city tour.]—Candice Kail, Columbia Univ. Libs., New York
Kirkus Reviews
"Is Google making us stupid?" So freelance technology writer Carr (The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, 2008, etc.) asked in a 2008 article in the Atlantic Monthly, an argument extended in this book. The subtitle is literal. In the interaction between humans and machines, the author writes, machines are becoming more humanlike. And, "as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence." Carr provides evidence from batteries of neuroscientific research projects, which suggest that the more we use the Internet as an appendage of memory, the less we remember, and the more we use it as an aide to thinking, the less we think. Though the author ably negotiates the shoals of scientific work, his argument also takes on Sven Birkerts-like cultural dimensions. The Internet, he complains, grants us access to huge amounts of data, but this unmediated, undigested stuff works against systematic learning and knowledge. Yale computer-science professor David Gelernter has lately made the same arguments in a more gnomic, but much shorter, essay now making the rounds of the Internet. This privileging of the short and bullet-pointed argument to the considered and leisurely fits into Carr's theme as well. He observes that with RSS, Twitter, Google and all the other cutely named distractions his computer provides, he has become a less patient and less careful reader of key texts that require real work. It's a sentiment that one of his subjects, a philosophy major and Rhodes Scholar, brushes aside, saying, "I don't read books . . . I go to Google, and I can absorb relevant information quickly." Ah, but there's the rub-how can a novice know what's relevant?Similar in spirit to Jaron Lanier's You Are Not a Gadget (2010)-cogent, urgent and well worth reading. Author tour to Denver/Boulder, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Austin, Texas. Agent: John Brockman
The Barnes & Noble Review

Just to give you advance notice, the following words are not a typographical or technological error: Whatifthebeginningofthispiecehadbeenwrittenlikethisyouwouldhavehadtosortofreadit outloudtoyourselfinordertounderstanditright?

In the early pages of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr, the author of two previous and for the most part socially nonjudgmental books about the Web, reviews the enormous change that simply putting spaces between words, beginning somewhere around 1000 AD, made to the act and nature of reading. Before that absolutely brilliant invention, reading had to be done -- and was meant to be done -- more or less out loud. With the insertion of spaces (and the arrival of paragraphs and punctuation and standard word orders), reading began its transformation into something else entirely -- a deep, silent, much more rapid but also far more intellectually immersive act. "Readers [now] disengaged their attention from the outward flow of stimuli in order to engage it more deeply with an inward flow of words, ideas, and emotions," Carr writes. He also points out that this transformation "required complex changes in the circuitry of the brain, as contemporary studies of young readers show."

If you didn't realize this before, think about it now. It makes such intellectually dramatic sense. And it works as an excellent foundation for the main argument of this generally excellent and important book (which is an expansion of a widely-read piece Carr did not long ago for The Atlantic, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"). That argument is:

  1. Neuroscientists have now irrefutably shown that our brains change their structure and function even after maturity, depending on what we do or don't use them for. This property of changeability is called neuroplasticity. This term is getting famous, and it should be.
  2. Every technological development that affects our process of cognition affects the physical nature and abilities of our brains. For instance, the invention of maps enormously expanded our understanding of certain aspects and measurements of geography, but it also (to use a term that Carr borrows from Marshall McLuhan) "numbed" our immediate sensory experience of the "lay of the land," just as high-speed travel does. GPSs can save lives, but their routine use topographically numbs us further.
  3. The necessity and ability to concentrate on a single task, intellectual or otherwise, is crucial for the formation of deep, long-term memories that ultimately enrich each other and produce what we call wisdom. Scientific research on the cellular level has shown that deep and concentrated cognitive exercise changes the synapses between neurons and the structures of the neurons themselves.
  4. The advent of the Internet has given us some wonderfully valuable new tools. You're using one right now, as you do when you print out a boarding pass at home, or find a recipe for rhubarb crisp, or listen to streaming music of a sort tailored to your personal preferences, or watch an episode of The Good Wife that you missed when it was first broadcast. Or find your own good wife, for that matter.
  5. But the Web's accompanying distractions and multi-tasking and data acceleration threaten our society's longstanding practice of and esteem for deep thought and reflection. The influx of competing messages that we receive?whenever we go online not only overloads our working?memory, it makes it much harder for our frontal lobes to?concentrate on any one thing. And thanks?once again to the plasticity of our neuronal pathways, the?more we use the Web, the more we train our brains to be distracted, to process information very quickly, but?without sustained attention.
  6. Finally, Carr concludes, "One of the greatest dangers we face as we automate the work of our minds, as we cede control over the flow of our thoughts and memories to a powerful electronic system is … a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity."

Usually, I call this kind of doomy pronouncement "geezer talk," because it's what old people tend to indulge in as they fail to face -- and instead displace -- their own fears of death onto the state of the world as a whole. My parents did, yours probably did -- or do -- too. Not that Mr. Carr is old. He's about fifty, a former editor of the Harvard Business Review whose previous, comparatively neutral attitude toward the technological revolution seems now to have given way to the values of his still earlier incarnation as a Harvard MA in English and American Literature and Language. Because in The Shallows, he clearly and deeply values creative, literary, and philosophical endeavor above all others; he worries about their future, and proves, to my satisfaction anyway, that he is right to worry. This book is not geezer talk, then -- it's required reading for anyone who wants a cogent, comprehensive, and thoroughly researched statement of the techno-fears that, in however inchoate a way, many of us have harbored for going on a few decades now.

Two reservations -- one minor, the other more apocalyptic than geezer talk. The Shallows repeats a couple of its basic ideas more than it needs to, especially the McLuhanite concept that the medium eventually shapes us as much as, if not more than, we shape it. (By the way, when I just typed "the," this word-processing program suggested "themselves" as a convenient Enter shortcut. The. Just did it again. And when I typed in "pro," it suggested "process" instead of "program." Carr brilliantly analyzes the implications of this sort of "helpful" HAL-like technological usurpation.)

The other, more apocalyptic reservation: in saying that we are in danger of losing our "humanness" to the Internet and electronica in general, Carr is choosing to emphasize -- in fact, to posit as central and essential -- certain aspects of that humanness, while ignoring others, which I consider, in my amateur way, and very sadly, just as central and essential. I am talking about our species's tendency to constantly develop and invent and do things not only inimical to our better natures, but threatening to our very existence. To wit: environmental havoc, horrific weaponry, religious zealotry, overpopulation, dietary atrocities, greed. The very cortices and hippocampi and parietal lobes and such, whose higher, deeper functions Carr sees imperiled by the Internet, are what created the Internet in the first place. So wouldn't it be more accurate to say that we are allowing one (destructive) aspect of our humanness to beat up another (sublime) one? I'm afraid so.

--Daniel Menaker

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393339758
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/6/2011
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 49,576
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Carr is the author of The Shallows, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, as well as The Big Switch and Does IT Matter? His articles and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and the New Republic, and he writes the widely read blog Rough Type. He has been writer-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley, and an executive editor of the Harvard Business Review.

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Table of Contents

Prologue

The Watchdog and the Thief 1

One Hal and Me 5

Two The Vital Paths 17

a digression on what the brain thinks about when it thinks about itself 36

Three Tools of the Mind 39

Four The Deepening Page 58

a digression on lee de forest and his amazing audion 78

Five A Medium of the Most General Nature 81

Six The Very Image of a Book 99

Seven The Juggler's Brain 115

a degression on the buoyancy of IQ scores 144

Eight The Church of Google 149

Nine Search, Memeory 177

a digression on the writing of this book 198

Ten A Thing Like me 201

Epilogue Human Elements 223

Notes 225

Further Reading 253

Acknowledgments 257

Index 259

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 68 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(29)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Shallows: Shallow Look at What Technology Is Doing to Our Brains

    Before this book was published, I looked forward to getting a copy with anticipation. I have been fascinated with what researchers are saying about the effects of the Web on our brains and and thought processes. Disappointingly, this book offers no groundbreaking insights in this topic, and for that matter any other. Carr opens the first chapters of this book with a long tedious history of the printed word and how that has affected thought and information processing. While this might be vital to his argument about how the Internet is changing the brain, it seems to go on forever. Could this information not been condensed into a chapter or so? Once Carr gets to the research on how the Web is changing our brains, he seems to go into long-drawn out descriptions of chemical processes and descriptions of physiological descriptions of how the Web is basically making us shallow thinkers, unable to think deeply about what we read and see on the Net. I was just a bit disappointed by Carr's treatment of a subject that has a great deal of merit, and a subject that needs to be discussed. In the end, this was one of those books that was difficult to finish. Plowing is the accurate term to describe how I moved through this book. While Carr does an adequate job of describing what the research says about how the Web is changing us, he does so in an uninspiring and didactic manner. This could have been an interesting book, but it reads too much like a diatribe against technology in general.

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 12, 2010

    Excellent! Significant conclusions.

    I picked this up after reading a review in a local paper - which thought it was too "shallow" for business readers. WRONG! Carr pulls together several strands of research and findings, and brings in the findings from scholarly journals to present several important consequences of the widespread use of the internet. The ideas are not all his, but he puts them together in a very well-written and readily digestible short read. We should all take note of his conclusions. The internet is changing the way we think - and we need to comprehend exactly how.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 9, 2010

    Mildly distractable? I highly recommend this book for you

    What initially hooked me was a review about "The Shallows" in Wired Magazine (June 2010). It took awhile to get to the real meat of the subject, but when it did, I couldn't stop underlining, highlighting, note taking, and star making - several chapters are now a complete mess, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

    I know this book is not for everyone, because some of us are more distractable than others. Unfortunately, I'm ADHD, and quite easily distracted. However, on the positive side, once I'm enthralled there's no end to my energy and ability to research a topic thoroughly. Oh well.

    I highly recommend this for anyone who spends time on the internet, or knows people who do, because it's an important read. If you don't recognize the characteristics today, chances are you will in the near future, because I believe it resembles behavior that could be referred to as techchnology induced ADHD (or close to it).

    Finally, here is a blog I've started (early June 2010) that is initially (parts 1 - 4 & notes) based on the Wire Mag review. Beyond that I'm developing more content based on my own revelations, observations, research and especially how I'm fighting the daily battle of distractedness on & off the Net.

    please visit http://velorep.com/b2b-blog

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 20, 2012

    A must-read book that uncovers what we are loosing unconsciously

    A must-read book that uncovers what we are loosing unconsciously, and the loss is what we must protect.
    You are becoming one of the shallows little by little with a cascade of benefits from the Net. How come we are becoming less knowledgeable with those benefits? Hyperlinks and multimedia on a Net page contain more information than we need, which makes you think the technology is a blessing. However, this book debunks it by laying out the results of prominent researches and findings. If you are interested in how your brain affected by what you are doing every 3mins with your gadgets, read this book!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 14, 2012

    Highly Recommended for All

    This book is being read by many college freshmen. My book club selected it to read because of that fact. Amazing information inside. Many insights. Our book club had one of the best discussions ever! This is a must read for anyone who still likes to pick up a book as well as an e reader or who still writes personal notes on paper but also sends text messages. It will change you!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 5, 2011

    Highly recommended

    I found this book absolutely an intriguing and thoughtful read!! While i enjoy some technology, I have huge concerns as to how we are using/over using it. This book put a lot into perspective. We have become a nation of voyeurs, reacting to stimuli rather than thinking about stimuli and how we respond. I have recommended this book to many people and/or given it as a gift on a must read. I teach and am using a chapter with my students. They need to reflect on what they are doing. As a society we need to consider what we are about before we get any further carried away by our facination with technology. This book helps the process.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Thoughtful essays on how the Internet drives brain changes and cultural transformations

    Business author Nicholas Carr enters Malcolm Gladwell territory with an insightful, far-reaching book of essays on how your brain works, how the Internet alters your perceptions and habits, and what the consequences of those alterations might be. Stretching from Aristotle to Google, Carr seeks to understand the magnitude of the change the Internet presents, and to gauge whether that change is for good or ill. He does not offer answers to his more provocative philosophical questions, preferring that the reader sort those out. But he frames these fascinating queries in detailed disquisitions on futurism, the creation of computing, the history of the written word and the evolution of science's notions of the brain and how it functions. His relaxed writing style provides a companionable read, as if you were having a great conversation with a brilliant stranger. getAbstract recommends this enjoyable, nourishing book to everyone who's ever wondered how working on a computer might be affecting their lives and their brains.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2011

    Thought provoking and rich in historical context,The Shallows is an even handed look at what is gained and lost as a result of the emrrgegence of the I-brain.

    The strength of this book is the historical context that the Age of Information is understood compared to similar pivitol developments such as the printing press. How our brains changed in relation to these sweeping changes is described. Not surprisingly, we both gained and lost aptitudes. What would have made this book even better would been practical suggestions to navigate this new territory to optimize our gains and minimize our losses.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 2, 2015

    This just in: Carr proves zombies really do exist!  You probably

    This just in: Carr proves zombies really do exist!  You probably already are aware that zombies are taking over pop culture; however, you may not be aware that zombies are slowly taking over our world.  Slowly but surely, bright intellectuals are transforming into zombies.  Think I’m kidding?  Read Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains or better yet, just go ahead and Google it.




    For those who may not be up to date with pop culture, zombies are non-communicative, mobile, lifeless humans that are vulnerable to brain destruction, which eventually kills them.  Throughout The Shallows, Carr argues that the Internet is not only changing how we think, but it is slowly destructing the brain.  For example, Carr cites Gary Small’s study of digital media’s effect on the human brain.  According to Small, a professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, “The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains” (116).  These changes to our brains are responsible for slowly transforming us into zombies that can no longer communicate effectively.  The destruction of our brains is real!  In 2008, a study of twenty-four people was conducted.  The study included twelve tech savvy people who surfed the Internet regularly and twelve people who avoided the Internet.  Incredibly, as the tech-savvy people surfed Google, researchers noticed that their prefrontal cortexes showed a considerably high amount of activity, while the twelve who were inexperienced with the Internet had virtually no activity.  Most surprisingly, after surfing the Internet an hour a day for five days, the Internet illiterates had the same amount of prefrontal brain activity as the tech-savvies.  Scary!




    According to Carr, “What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: we are evolving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest” (134).  We are slowly losing our ability to think critically, as we conform to the primitive ways of hunting via the Internet.  Carr argues that we are evolving into brain-damaged zombies reduced to habitual grazing on the World Wide Web. 




    Now, take a moment to reflect on how much time young children, the future of our country, are spending engaged with technology.  If a baby cries, parents of the twenty-first century coddle the baby with an iPhone.  If a toddler is being obnoxious, parents hand the child an iPad to “play an educational game”.  Even educators are forced to include technology in their lessons in order to satisfy the requirements of the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES).




    Personally, I spent an entire semester in a class dedicated to teaching future teachers how to effectively integrate technology into the classroom and now I am questioning everything.  Are educational games really educational?  Should technology be used in the classroom?  Is the Internet building knowledge or destroying it?  




    Is the Internet transforming us into Jimmy Neutrons or zombies?  Brain blast!  Literally.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2014

    This book is one I was required to read for a class. I, honestly

    This book is one I was required to read for a class. I, honestly, would not have read it if it were not, but not because of the topic. The
    topic – how the internet affects our brains – is fairly interesting, and when I first began reading the book, I was eager to learn the answer
    to this. However, when I started flipping through the pages of the book, I noticed that the writing style is not one I enjoy. I skimmed through
    a few chapters and realized that Carr has taken this interesting topic, and made it dull. I do think Carr brings up several valid points 
    about how the the internet has affected our thought processes. He mentions how the internet has caused our ability to concentrate to 
    decrease. This is something that I have noticed, as well, and he uses the specific example of being able to focus on reading. I used to 
    read at least one book a week, but since I've began using the internet more, the amount of reading I do has significantly decreased. Carr 
    proposes that the reason people have loss focus on reading  is because the internet has actually changed the way our brains operate. I
    think this is something interesting to ponder, but it's not something that I haven't thought about before. While Carr makes interesting points,
    he, however, fails to provide any profound insight. Overall, I found this book to be very tedious to get through, as he focused much too 
    heavily on historical events that didn't seem to be especially relevant to the topic. Nearly every chapter begins with an exceptionally 
    detailed description of a past event. He does provide adequate research, I believe, but he presents this research in an unappealing, 
    pedantic way. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2015

    I read the book in English, but it was interesting that the titl

    I read the book in English, but it was interesting that the title of the same book translated in Korean is ‘The shallows: people who do not think.’ I believe it represents all stories of the book rather than the English title ‘What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.’ Since South Korea developed fast after the Korean War, even though I am in my early 20s, I experienced analog and high-technology at the same time during my life so far. Therefore, I feel lucky that I can communicate with my family in USA with computer and also send a letter to them. However, it is true that many people prefer to do Skype than send written mails and prefer to watch movies than read books. I do not want to criticize those who take advantages of those modern devices because that is what I am doing. However, grown-ups have experiences of analog things and have known the advantages of them. On the other hand, children have less chances to experience analog things. Schools provide the modern technologies for better educational facilities as well as house. Children cannot help avoiding the technology, and thus, they get used to live with technology and only fall into them. It may take away the chance for children to look around their surroundings, think about themselves, and even just ‘think’ about whatever. Most of their time is filled with smart devices and there is no time to think about something, even it would be a silly thing. For children, and also for adults, people need blank to think. If the world does not give us the time to think, people recognize it and give themselves the time to think.

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  • Posted May 4, 2015

    William Cody Slone Book Review- The Shallows; What the Internet

    William Cody Slone
    Book Review- The Shallows; What the Internet is doing to Our Brains.
    This book written by Nicholas Carr takes a firsthand look at how the internet is affecting our brains and how we live our everyday lives as human beings. Carr contends in his writing that the internet is “rewiring” our brains to where we think and act like computers. He says the endless amount of information at our fingertips hinders us from clearly finding the truth about what we are reading. He writes in the first part of the book that we are in the same position of the supercomputer HAL. The machine is being dismantled, in “2001: a Space Odyssey”, the wires are unplugged. “My mind is going,” HAL says, “I can feel it.” Carr believes that the internet is causing our minds to go from all the useless information we have a click away.
    Carr says that he can feel his mind going as well. He feels that his mind is being reprogrammed like if someone were tinkering with his brain. Carr believes that we as humans are sabotaging ourselves with over use of the internet. He states that we aren’t interested in gaining the deeper meaning of text we only want to skim over the surface of information as quickly as possible.
    In this Carr says that computers are destroying our concentration. People are always multitasking surfing the web, checking emails, scrolling through twitter and Facebook. We can’t focus on just one thing at a time. He thinks we need to be bouncing from web page to web page to gain new materials because humans now crave to gain new info on anything happening. Critics write that this isn’t the internet’s fault but our own. Saying the internet just exposed of feeble mindedness and we are continuing to prove it correct.
    With The Shalloows Carr is attempting to pull us away from our Iphones and tablets. He encourages us to value our wisdom, use new technology intelligently and seek “deeper meaning” in this new mulled down world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2015

    My time reading this book really opened my eyes to something m


    My time reading this book really opened my eyes to something more than I could’ve imagined. Going in, I didn’t believe that this would be a book that I would honestly choose to read, and put off reading for a while. When I finally began reading it though, the interesting facts that this book gave me was quite interesting. I would definitely suggest this book to others taking this course.
    The book itself is about what the internet is doing to our brains. Carr makes really good points throughout the book using things like building insights on different philosopher’s backgrounds, such as Plato. Carr makes a convincing case throughout this book that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic. He also talks about how a printed book holds our attention, and makes us more focused on whatever it is that we’re learning.
    What I enjoyed about this book is that Carr used scientific research to back up his statements and facts that he talks about throughout the entire book. I also enjoy that he took the time to distinguish the beneficial and argumentive points in this book, looking at both sides of the picture, instead of being biased with one.
    The way I look at it, and was pointed out in this book, the internet is made up of so much information, that it physically and mentally makes us grow as a society and as a whole. The only trouble we run into is when two thinkers from the internet world and the non-cyber world clash. But like all things, if everyone thought the same than we wouldn’t have as many great ideas and differences as we do today, and that’s what’s beautiful about it all.

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  • Posted May 4, 2015

    The Shallow: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains is a book

    The Shallow: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains is a book that everyone needs to read. The Shallow is a book that makes you think about the effect that technology has on our brains and our ability to communicate with others face to face. Carr discusses how his attention span was vanishing, but he is careful to note that the usefulness of the Internet which provides us with the immediate access to news and information from all over the world. Although, he states that it is useful, he insists that the negative side effects of the Internet outweigh its efficiencies. Computers have altered the way we work, think, and communicate. The biggest charge Carr makes about the Internet has nothing to do with Google, but the way the computers are destroying our powers of concentration. Carr explains how the World Wide Web is affecting the way he think and learn. He explains that the Internet is causing our brains to think much like the Internet. Unlike twenty years ago when people had to read for information and entertainment, now they have everything at a click of a button. With all of this information, Carr states that we will have trouble to concentrate on one thing at a time. According to Carr, the reason for this is that we have become so dependent on the Internet that our brains constantly crave information. Our brains are becoming like high-speed data processing machines. This might be because of neuroplasticity, a process that shapes and changes our brains based on what we are feeding them.
    This book might not be for everyone, but I would recommend it for anyone that spend time on a computer, uses a smart phone, or any other time of modern technology. We must understand what technology is doing to our brains in order not to become shallow.

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  • Posted May 4, 2015

    ¿It is so much our servant that it would seem churlish to notice

    “It is so much our servant that it would seem churlish to notice that it is also our master.” To me, this quote defines the whole message of the book, The Shallows; that computers are truly taking over our world, and we are oblivious to its damaging effects. The author, Nicholas Carr, wants the people reading his book to realize what they are too blind to see. He wants his audience to understand that without the consumer’s knowledge, computers have a massive influence over everyone. To some people this would seem outrageous, but the exuberant amount of facts he includes in this book will be sure to make you think twice.



    Carr puts a lot of emphasis on how easily the brain can be affected by using the computer for all means of convenience. No one thinks twice to log onto the internet to look up a random fact or to email their friend and have a nice conversation. Technology has definitely come a very long way over time and I’m not sure how good this is for society. Without anyone’s knowledge, computers are becoming “masters” like Carr suggests. We rely on them and go to them for information more than any other resource. Often times the internet can have false information, and therefore, running to the internet for important knowledge may not always be the best solution.


    His writing style was personally one of my favorites to read. There was never a dull moment at any second. Literally everything that was in the book was interesting to me and I never had the urge to put it down. I had to read this book as an assignment for class, but I am so glad that I did. If I had seen this book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, I may not have picked it up myself. I strongly recommend this book to anyone to truly gain an idea of what technology can really do to us. It is not always a brilliant choice.

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  • Posted May 4, 2015

    Sami H. I really enjoyed ¿The Shallows¿, by Nicholas Carr, becau

    Sami H.
    I really enjoyed “The Shallows”, by Nicholas Carr, because it involves a deep discussion of the biology and history of the human brain. Although quick decisions are being made by neurons about how the brain should adjust, it is a much longer process for humans as a species to evolve in thought. However, Carr believes that, just as technology has changed over time, so have our minds. 
    The human brain has plasticity, meaning that it changes form and adjusts to its environment. Externally, it may stay the same, but neurons work endlessly deciding what information needs to be kept and what is unessential for survival. Only the necessary information can be kept, or an overload of information would constantly give us headaches. So the neurotransmitters that connect information to the proper place in the brain are constantly connecting or breaking away. Because our brains are constantly changing, overtime the human race will result in a changed mind as well.
    Communications have been an ever changing process as well. Although the main idea of one being talking to another has remained constant, technology over time has changed the social world. In fact, even writing, which seems so basic in today’s world, is very new. Now, with social networking, texting, and calling replacing face-to-face interactions, our minds are evolving to accommodate. A quote from “The Shallows” that shows how different our generation is from just a few years ago is written by Friedrich Nietzsche on one of the first type-writers.
    The writing ball is a thing like me: made of iron
    Yet easily twisted on journeys.
    Patience and tact are required in abundance,
    As well as fine fingers, to use us.
    Our minds have evolved to match the pace of our technology. Carr mentions how even he has a hard time focusing on one item, whether it be a text or task. He attributes this shortened attention span to the increase of resources we now have thanks to technology. 
    With the internet, it is possible to read snip-its of multiple articles almost simultaneously. In fact, often when I am doing homework, I have two or three webpages pulled up, all surrounding the paper that I am typing on the same screen. It is no longer necessary to read a whole textbook or scholarly journal to figure out the answers to my questions. I can google my question and find hundreds of reputable sources in a matter of seconds. Blogs, journals, yahoo answers, and videos all explaining the answers pop up on my screen, and in a matter of minutes, I can open each one to find the one most helpful. Because of our easy and quick access to information, it’s not typical to sit and read or spend hours on a single project. The human mind has adjusted, and thus our attention spans and patience have shortened. To me, this makes total sense, and now I feel more aware of why multi-tasking is such a large part of our world today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2015

    This day in time, the Internet is looked at differently compared

    This day in time, the Internet is looked at differently compared to its original purpose and thoughts when such a phenomenon was introduced.  The Internet is much like a servant to people’s wants and needs. Not only is it our servant but it also is a master that we cannot escape. In “The Shallows”, Nicholas Carr, the author makes a point to show us how the Web is affecting us in numerous ways. The Internet affects the way we think and learn. The Internet is making us think in a completely different way.  The Internet actually can do most of our thinking for us.  He compares the way we think to the way the online world as taught us to think; like a swiftly moving stream of particles.  In the past, before the Internet, people read for the sole purposes of being informed and enjoyment. Books and newspapers were both vital in the past. Now, you can find a full text on the web along with your daily news. The Internet is even used for communication versus the past when the main form of communication was face to face. The author implies that the Internet has even changed our brains.  We’re unable to concentrate and keep our focus unless technology is involved. “The brain is not the machine we once thought it to be. Though different regions are associated with different mental functions, the cellular components do not form permanent structures or play rigid roles. They’re flexible. They change with experience, circumstance, and need.” –The ShallowsThink about it, when’s the last time you’ve sat down for a meeting, lecture or class were technology was not involved. If you can think of a recent encounter, try and recall how interested you were. I would bet to say that your mind was drifting off to what you’re eating for lunch or what you’re doing that evening rather than the information provided from the instructor.  Our brains have become so reliant on the bittersweet invention of the Internet that it’s nearly impossible to live without. I enjoyed The Shallows and it really opened my eyes to many things about technology. It made me evaluate my own self and realize that even I am help captive to this addiction known as the Internet.

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  • Posted May 3, 2015

    Carr just started college when he noticed he had the whole world

    Carr just started college when he noticed he had the whole world in his palm. Computers just started getting big and he noticed, he had all the information he wanted or need and could talk to whoever he wanted, even if they were millions of miles away. Carr proceeded to use the web for many different things and realized that his mind was growing into its own mind by, moving aside his old mind and making it into a brain that wants and needs short information. 
    So the big question is, is technology putting our brains and the way we think in danger? The internet is not only dangerous for our brains, but it can be dangerous for our social life too. Carr fears that this could be super threating to us in future. 
    I like this reading. It really did not change my opinion on the internet, but I do try not to spend all my time on technology, like my xbox, phone, computer, etc. I think it is good to go out and be social and interact with people. That is life and that is how you build relationships and great experience in the real world. 

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  • Posted May 1, 2015

    Honestly, this book is not one I would¿ve picked up and begun to

    Honestly, this book is not one I would’ve picked up and begun to read of my own accord. However, after having finished it, I’m rather surprised by how much I enjoyed it – mostly, the way it made me think. While Carr’s writing is mildly boring at times, I believe that the topic is quite interesting. I never really spent much time thinking about how the internet could be changing our brains, but Carr presents research that actually shows how the use of the internet is literally altering the way our brains function. Mind-blowing.

    One study he discussed was done by a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, Gary Small. He took twenty-four volunteers, half of whom were on the internet frequently, the other half not internet-users, and scanned their brains. The scans showed a significant difference between the two groups. For the next five days, the “internet naïve” group spent one hour each day on the internet. The next scan, six days after the first, showed that the latter group’s scans had already changed to look like the group of frequent internet users. This means that only five hours worth of internet research actually altered the circuitry of their brains. This leaves us with the question, “What happens when we spend more time online?”

    Carr later discusses Google and other internet companies, and how they all insist that “the efficiency of information exchange is the key to intellectual progress”. He also mentions that according to English Romantics, “true enlightenment comes only through contemplation and introspection”. This sets the stage for one of the final portions of the book, where he discusses Nathaniel Hawthorne and the conflict between “the machine” and “the garden”. Essentially, the book is about what we’re saying goodbye to in our new internet-based world. There is plenty of research to support his argument that internet use is changing the way our brains function, but honestly, it isn’t the most exciting read. The research aspect of it still blew my mind, though. All in all, while I found the topic incredibly interesting, the book itself was a bit dry for my taste.

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  • Posted May 1, 2015

    The book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr was an intriguing read. A

    The book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr was an intriguing read. At first I wasn’t sure what to think about it;
    it was a little challenging but as I continued to read I realized that the question through out the book is whether technology
    is threatening our ability to read and think clearly. Carr blames the Internet for why reading has recently become much harder.
    Carr also has anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. This book had some interesting information and views on how the
    Internet not only affects our brains but also our social life, personal behavior and the way we think. Going into detail on how our
    brains work and function was very stimulating to me.  I really enjoyed this book because it had both positive and negative outlooks
     that have research to back up the information that is given. Numerous experiments and explanations on how our brain works are
    also some information given.  This book did impact the way I look at the Internet and other technology that is commonly used.
     I believe that this book is important to read and that the author really took the time to research and create such a book that has
    information like no other book I have read has. Since reading this book I have been using my phone less than usual,
    I do believe people need to take a step back from technology every once in a while and enjoy life. 

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