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Shallows, The [Paperback]

Nicholas Carr
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 7 2011 0393339750 978-0393339758 Reprint
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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Review

Nicholas Carr has written an important and timely book. See if you can stay off the web long enough to read it! --Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change"

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Is our constant exposure to electronic stimuli good for us? Can we transform the data we receive into the knowledge we need? Are we swapping deep understanding for shallow distractions?

In this book, Nicholas Carr argues that our constant exposure to multiple and faster data streams is changing the way our brains are wired. This change, which is due to the inherent plasticity of the brain, tends to reduce our capacity to absorb and retain what we read. Mr Carr cites a number of different studies to support his views, and the book makes for interesting reading.

Mr Carr acknowledges that the digital world brings both advantage and disadvantage: `Every tool imposes limitations even as it opens possibilities.' The Internet is a wonderful tool for finding information, but value usually requires some analysis, and often requires a context which is not always immediately obvious. How do we find a balance between those aspects of life that require self-awareness, time and careful consideration, and those aspects of life where an automatic (or semi automatic) response is more appropriate and perhaps even required? Do we understand what choices we have, or are we responding in line with the immediacy of the medium we are using? Are we consumers of data or evaluators of information? Does it matter? I think it does: `The more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctly human forms of empathy, compassion, and emotion.'

The most valuable aspect of this book, to me, was thinking about the short and long term consequences of the Internet. Those of us who grew to adulthood before the Internet shaped the way we work and communicate have (to varying degrees) embraced the benefits and new possibilities afforded.

A return to the past is neither possible nor desirable - but conscious choice is both.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book on the history of thought processes Jan. 13 2011
By Alia
Format:Hardcover
Why aren't there more reviews of this book? Nicholas Carr's book is less to do with the internet, and more to do with how human thinking has evolved with the development of new communication technologies -- I picked it up because largely because of perverse pleasure in reading articles that bash the dumbing-down qualities of the internet, but it turned out to be a very well-balanced, well-argued, and ultimately frightening book about how even educated adult brains can be moulded to fit the ADD-multitask thought process made possible (and encouraged) by the internet. If you're wondering why you can't seem to type out a paragraph without simultaneously checking the Huffington Post, listening to a song on YouTube, watching a video on Failblog (or Cuteoverload, whichever your drug is), then this book will solve the mystery for you.

And while it solves no problems, it will make you more aware of what you are doing to yourself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This book is deeply personal, written directly to each of the hundreds of millions of people who spend many hours a day in front of a monitor. For those like me who are middle age, this provides incredible context for something we were likely glancingly aware of; the Internet, through e-books, computers and smart phones, is changing our brains. Nicholas Carr brings together a rich set of scientific and philosophical sources to demonstrate how technology that extends our intellect (clocks, maps, alphabets, the printing press, the computer, the Internet) has ended up changing everything from our worldview to the physical makeup of our brains. The chapter on Google is an insightful aside, reinforcing the main point that "our ability to engage in 'meditative thinking'...might become a victim of headlong progress." The author builds a case that being "Internet-connected" while trying to engage is meditative thinking is like reading a book while doing a crossword puzzle. It cannot be effectively done. The concern is that we are losing an essential element of our humanity and becoming more like the machines we spend so much time engaging with. Since computers aren't going away, and indeed are increasingly enriching our society in so many ways, this left me wondering how we teach our children to think calculatively and meditatively. Surely someone who is able to effectively combine calculative thinking (ie expertise in data mining) with meditative thinking (using data to drive real insights from complex, personal schema) has limitless opportunities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An insightful and interesting read April 26 2012
Format:Paperback
An insightful and interesting read on how our brains work and how the internet is changing how we comprehend, understand and learn. Carr questions our pursuit of ever more user friendly interfaces. As we cede more of our thinking and understanding to technology, are we diminishing our own cognitive abilities?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anything but shallow April 4 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Shallows by Nicholas Carr is a book that can make you feel stupid at times if you are of average intelligence as I am. I have read quite a few popular books dealing with scientific information that is written so the lay reader can understand. This book was a bit difficult but the information so essential that I plodded through it however slowly. The Shallows is well written and clearly underlines a problem that far too many of us trustingly ignore: What the internet is doing to our brains. It's not frightening information but it is timely and should not be ignored as we look for better and faster and less cumbersome technologies. It made me want to reassess my need for wireless technology; in some cases I've eliminated it, in others I've begun to use it more wisely.
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