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The Internet will fry your brain. Sure.

BrainScanHomerSimpsonThe Boston Globe has a good article/ book review on the lat­est quasi-luddite attack on the Inter­net (an attack in the name of brain sci­ence no less, and with cool brain scans). The book in ques­tion: “The Shal­lows: What the Inter­net Is Doing to Our Brains.”

The Inter­net ate my brain (Boston Globe)
Nicholas Carr says that our online lifestyle threat­ens to make us dumber. But resis­tance may not be futile

The reporter, Wes Ander­son, adds the proper per­spec­tive, in my view, by end­ing the arti­cle with:

Books and the Inter­net, lit­er­ary cul­ture and dig­i­tal cul­ture have coex­isted for many years. It may be that an engaged intel­lec­tual life will now require a sort of hybrid exis­tence — and a hybrid mind that can adapt and sur­vive by the choices one makes. It may require a new kind of self-discipline, a willed and prac­ticed abil­ity to focus, in a pur­pose­ful and almost med­i­ta­tive sense — to step away from the net­work and seek still­ness, immersion.”

Now, you can call this hybrid mind shal­low. I call it all my only hope.”

Wes: you’re quite right. Not only that, but the Internet-enabled “weaponry to resist”,  what we pre­fer to call a toolkit to mon­i­tor and enhance cognition/ brain fit­ness in ways we couldn’t do before, is grow­ing by the day. We’ll just need to learn to use it prop­erly –and the Inter­net as a whole, to be sure-, to enhance our lives. My bet is: we will.

Nicholas Carr does a great job high­light­ing the impli­ca­tions of life­long neu­ro­plas­tic­ity –every­thing we do/think/feel has a phys­i­cal and func­tional impact on our brains, for bet­ter or for worse-, but misiden­ti­fies  our brains most likely enemy (watch­ing TV? chronic stress?), and fails to con­sider that we tend to learn how to ride bikes by rid­ing bikes.

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5 Responses

  1. Ted says:

    Yes, I was blog­ging about this today — with almost the same head­line: http://tinyurl.com/2fwz5za

  2. I am more skep­ti­cal about the human race than you. When you say “we,” in regard to those who will “enhance” life with the Inter­net, I imag­ine you are speak­ing of the minor­ity who are able to remain mind­ful of their own infor­ma­tion con­sump­tion and main­tain a healthy infor­ma­tion diet.

    There is an end­less amount of infor­ma­tion on phys­i­cal health, yet two-thirds of Amer­i­cans are over­weight or obese.

    I imag­ine at least that same por­tion of soci­ety will have unhealthy infor­ma­tion diets and not “enhance” their lives with information.

    … in an information-rich world, the wealth of infor­ma­tion means a dearth of some­thing else: a scarcity of what­ever it is that infor­ma­tion con­sumes. What infor­ma­tion con­sumes is rather obvi­ous: it con­sumes the atten­tion of its recip­i­ents. Hence a wealth of infor­ma­tion cre­ates a poverty of atten­tion and a need to allo­cate that atten­tion effi­ciently among the over­abun­dance of infor­ma­tion sources that might con­sume it.” Her­bert Simon (1916 — 2001)

  3. Ted — good post, I agree. I also saw yes­ter­day the excel­lent book review by Jonah Lehrer in the NYT.

    Kent — thank you for reflec­tion. I share your skep­ti­cism that not every­one will ben­e­fit equally, but, indeed, I seem more opti­mistic about the human species. It is not only a few but the many whose life expectancy has increased by over 30 years in just a cen­tury. If I had been born cen­turies ago, I´d most likely be dead now.

    Yes, the mod­ern world presents us with an over­flow of infor­ma­tion, which can be over­whelm­ing — it is pre­cisely for that rea­son that we need to inno­vate on how to enhance atten­tion, infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing power and other men­tal capac­i­ties so that we, not the Inter­net, is the mas­ter (a pos­si­bil­ity that Her­bert Simon, at least in that quote, didn´t consider).

  4. Allegory says:

    The irony is that it is pub­lished on the net :)

  5. Michael says:

    Well, I find myself in this post. I guess human is not what was before, and surely we changes with time and tech­nol­ogy process have the biggest influ­ence to it.

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