According to Nicholas Carr’s article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” published in the July/August 2008 edition of TheAtlantic.com, people today have become too dependent on technology, especially the internet. He explains that people’s ability to remember and concentration on information has decreased because the internet and other technology, for the most part, does this for us. Carr further claims that we are no longer reading in the traditional sense, that the way we read has changed because of the various ways that we can access information. Moreover, he claims that these technologies have affected the way that people write. Because of all of this, Carr says, the maleability of our brains and our natural rhythm have been affected. Carr’s skepticism is understandable, but I’m not fully convinced that the internet “is making us stupid.”
The author insists that he notices a difference in his ability to access and recall information. He reports that other tech-savvy professionals have also noticed this change in themselves. And while we can all relate, the testimonies of these professionals are not enough to says for sure that the internet has caused any harm to our neurological abilities.
Carr admits that there is not yet any measurable evidence to support his claim that our brains are practically turning to mush because of the internet. Instead, he presents the results of a study performaed by scholars at the University College of London that basically revealed that internet users are reading more but not the way people traditionally read. While this contradicts traditional reading behaviors, it is not alarming. Rather, it is revolutionary. People have learned to access more information in different ways. Carr quotes the author of the study as saying, “[i]t is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense.” So what if readers have learned to access more information in a shorter period of time? It doesn’t necessarily mean that people have stopped reading books all together. The author even presents evidence from a neuroscientist that tells us that the human brain “break[s] old connections and forms new ones,” which weakens his claim that we should be worried. As the human race and its technology evolves, one should expect the human brain to evolve in order to process the new expectations.
Fear and anxiety surrounding the unknown is quite common, but those emotions do not usually last long. Some skepticism, the author tells us, can be healthy. This healthy skepticism allows us to protect ourselves as internet users. As the web grows astronomically over time, the amount of information available to us becomes overwhelming, so we have to learn new strategies for discerning good information from useless or flat out wrong information. However, this is not impossible to do.
Notwhithstanding the seemingly endless amount of information available to us, I for one am still skeptical about doing away with hard copies of books. Like Carr, I find it hard to focus on a piece of reading for long periods of time while using technology. However, I do not see this as irresolvable. I, like others I’m sure, am aware of the affect that technology has on me and I adjust accordingly. As a matter of fact, since so much of the reading that I need to do is online, I use the speech option on my computer to read the text for me while I read along. This allows me to access the information visually and audibly. As a result, I am able to focus on the reading and I retain more information. I wouldn’t call that stupid; instead, I would call it adapting.