The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

4.0 91
by Nicholas Carr, William Hughes
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

…  See more details below

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.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

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
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
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

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781441750006
Publisher:
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
06/07/2010
Pages:
1
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)

What People are saying about this

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.

Read More

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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >