The Hundredth Monkey Asks, ‘What are we doing to ourselves?’ [updated]
But, is the Internet – the Web, really – worse than TV? Didn’t people wring their hands over kids sitting passively in front of the TV for hours – even as many used them the boob-tube as an electronic babysitter?
We never seem to know what we need to when we need to. It always takes too much time to recognize the lead in the pipes. Lives are ruined in the meantime.
I must know — now — what has arrived in my inbox, even though almost all of it is junk. I live an alt-tab existence, constantly shuttling among the open windows on my browser. I have switched, in Carr’s formulation, from "reading to power-browsing." I am a lab rat "constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment."
I love technology. It lets me work better and faster. It untethers me from a physical office and allows me to, well, alt-tab efficiently between work and family. E-mail and social networking, with the combination of ease of access yet remoteness of interaction, help make and renew personal connections.
But technology also takes its toll — including physically. "The technology is rewiring our brains," Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, told the New York Times. The brain is malleable, and, like any regular exercise, the instant gratification world of the Web helps build certain neural connections while others molder.
There’s a lot that’s been written lately about how the Web is puréeing people’s gray matter. The most thorough take on the topic is Nicholas Carr’s new book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, but anyone who’s been spending a lot of time surfing is probably going to be so distracted by e-mails and Facebook, etc., that he won’t be able to finish the book. Instead, he’ll turn, with irony, to the Web, where he’ll find plenty to read, especially if he’s looking for it today: The New York Times has just published two stories, a blog post, and an interactive feature arguing that the electronic methods by which they themselves are delivered are “intrusive, have increased [people’s] levels of stress and have made it difficult to concentrate.” [mjh: Even more links in the rest of the article.]
Newmexiken posts a different view, but don’t let that distract you:
[begin Newmexiken’s entry]
‘[E]very time we learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes’
[mjh: for some reason, this post title makes me think of the assertion that smell involves aroma molecules impacting smell sensors, therefore, when you smell a fart …]
Originally posted Friday, June 11, 2010
If you’re reading this blog post on a computer, mobile phone or e-reader, please stop what you’re doing immediately. You could be making yourself stupid. And whatever you do, don’t click on the links in this post. They could distract you from the flow of my beautiful prose and narrative.
Bilton goes on to discredit that theory and survey some recent thinking on the topic. Among other things, his discussion led me to this:
“And to encourage intellectual depth, don’t rail at PowerPoint or Google. It’s not as if habits of deep reflection, thorough research and rigorous reasoning ever came naturally to people. They must be acquired in special institutions, which we call universities, and maintained with constant upkeep, which we call analysis, criticism and debate. They are not granted by propping a heavy encyclopedia on your lap, nor are they taken away by efficient access to information on the Internet.”
Both are worth reading if you’re not too distracted.
[/end Newmexiken’s entry]