In this ground-breaking and compelling book, Nicholas Carr argues that not since Gutenberg invented printing has humanity been exposed to such a mind-altering technology. The Shallows draws on the latest research to show that the Net is literally re-wiring our brains inducing only superficial understanding.
As a consequence there are profound changes in the way we live and communicate, remember and socialise - even in our very conception of ourselves. By moving from the depths of thought to the shallows of distraction, the web, it seems, is actually fostering ignorance. The Shallows is not a manifesto for luddites, nor does it seek to turn back the clock. Rather it is a revelatory reminder of how far the Internet has become enmeshed in our daily existence and is affecting the way we think.
This landmark book compels us all to look anew at our dependence on this all-pervasive technology.
For those sci-fi fans out there who are also Trekkies, "We are become as the Binars!" For those without the background to understand, here's a quick primer: The race of entities that create the supercomputers that run the Star Trwek starships are called the Binars. They are so enmeshed with their technology that when the master computer on their homeworld begins to fail, they hijack the USS Enterprise in order to 'borrow' the processing capabilities of the ships computer long enough to allow them time to repair the master computer and save their race.
The Binars' very mental architecture has evolved over the millenia that it can no longer fit in the organic brain alone - and needs to be partly virtualised... without it, they die. Their autonomic systems - the 'automatic brain' that contyrols their physical body is now entirely in the machine realm, leaving their entire brain structure for cognitive thought. This book highlights some of the early, but far less extreme, signs that we may be heading the same way.
In the days before internet, when TV was new and the radio was still the first thing you thought of when someone said "wireless", we were required to carry our knowledge in our heads. Being able to confront an unknown situation meant having a wide and varied knowledge base at our immediate grasp, and the ability to think our way through how best to use what was available at the time - the ultimate MacGyver. Nowdays, all you need is a cellphopne with 3G and a few dollars to pay for the data transfer. Why 'know' anything, when everything is just a few clicks away? And after you have used that knowledge, why store it, when it's already stored online where youm can find it again whenever you need it?
These days, to be 'intelligent' requires only that you know what to type into Google, and the dexterity to click a few links.
This book shows us that we are becoming too reliant on our 'information superhighway' technology - generation by generation, we are losing the abilty to think for ourselves, store useful knowledge and experience, and become little more than drones. However, what this book does NOT do, is tell us that the technology is evil, irreparably harmful, or unnecessary. It's merely a beacon, warning us of the shallows we are wallowing towards. If we are to save ourselves from a potentially lethal flaw - being bound to a technology that is still fragile enough to be made useless by warfare or catastrophic natural disaster (think about how badly affected New Orleans was after the tsunami, where a lack of communication cost more lives) - we need to rely on the internet less, and our brains more. Once the knowledge is in your head, work at keeping it there. Learn from books, hands-on experience, experimentation... all the other ways that raised us to this level and are not so electricity-dependent.
Overall, this book is a wake-up call to the 21st Century - Be aware of the limitations of the technology, and how over-dependence on it could prove dangerous. Be aware of your mental accuity, and work to protect and enhance it. Most of all, be aware of your depth-of-self - your level of interaction with the real world, instead of the shallow world of online society, where 'you' is only screen-deep.
Random listing from 'Books'...
Ella and Olivia are sisters. Ella is seven years old. Olivia is five and-a-half years old. They live with their mum and dad and little brother Max.
Book 4: The New Girl
It is the first day of school term, and the new girl in Ella's class doesn't seem to like anything. Can Ella change her mind?
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"We know what the speed of light is, but what is the speed of darkness?"