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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:

  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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