Nicholas Carr “Is Google Making Us Stupid” Summary and Analysis
Since its emergence, technology has received numerous criticisms from many scholars and professionals worried about its impact on the human mind. Socrates was among the early critics of technology, in one of his works, Phaedrus, he mentioned that print books would make humans forgetful. He cited the habit of coming generations to depend on written sources of information and mentioned the library as the greatest contributor to the problem.
The same trend of criticism is evident in the 17th century as evidenced in Robert Burton’s writing, “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” where he states that books are cumbersome and cause hand and eye ache. After its invention, the telegram was also criticized. A popular physician claimed that its uses resulted in mental illness among people. When the TV and radio era came, critics argued that it fostered ‘passive brain pleasure,’ and affected the ability of children to read.
Argument Summary and Analysis– Is Google Making Us Stupid by Nicholas Carr
Nicolas Carr wrote an article that presented his arguments on how Google is affecting the human mind, and its ability to comprehend things. The article was published in The Atlantic in the year 2008. The arguments he presents in the article are unique and contrary to what most people perceive about the internet. The foundation of his arguments is that the Internet has slowed the ability of the human brain to process information. Many of his arguments have a strong basis as they are supported by adequate evidence from research findings by different universities and his examples. The most interesting statement that informs his arguments is that in the past 30 years numerous technological discoveries have been made, and their effect is they have rendered humans incapable of reading and thinking critically. Carr’s statement refers to the current custom, where people no longer read long articles or approach varying situations from a critical angle. Instead, they rush to Google for assistance.
In his article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” Carr emphasized his arguments through an illustration from a scene of the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was written by Stanley Kubrick. In this scene, a supercomputer is being dismantled by an astronaut it almost killed. He is concerned by the computer’s act of conversing and mentioning what it felt in the process of being disassembled. The supercomputer, which is programmed to behave like a human being, starts to beg for its life when the astronaut continues to dismantle it. Hal, the supercomputer, reveals that he can no longer feel his brain as the dismantling process continues. Carr uses the behavior of Hal as the basis for his later arguments.
Carr may have used this illustration to evidence what is currently happening to the human mind. In the scene, Hal lost his brain as a result of dismantling by man. He compares what happened to Hal with what he has been experiencing over the years. He mentions that over the years he has had a feeling like someone is altering or reprogramming his brain. His worry comes as a result of the reduced capabilities of the human brain; people are neither able to pay attention for long nor think critically. All this is caused by the increased dependence that people have on the internet.
He cites his mind’s inability to pay attention as it used before the internet era. Carr is further concerned by his inability to write as smoothly as he used to before he started using the internet. He mentions that modern people have access to numerous databases and sources of information. But this access does not translate to increased knowledge as a study on internet hyperlinks reveals that most searches on the internet are unrelated. Carr incorporates a 2008 study, where more than 34 million academically published articles were reviewed. The study showed that the number of people using those articles as references for their research papers has significantly reduced. It further showed that people have an affinity for articles that have been published in the recent past. Numerous people reference most of these articles, implying that people nowadays use information from a limited number of sources. This is inappropriate as there are numerous sources of information that people can consult.
Carr further includes research by the University College of London, where researchers observed the behavior of online researchers in some popular internet databases. The researchers learned that people no longer do the full reading, rather they read through abstracts, titles and content pages to spot the information they need. The researchers established that most people rush to the internet to avoid the traditional form of reading. Carr introduces the concept of intellectual technologies, which has changed man’s way of thinking. He uses the example of a mechanical clock to illustrate the consequences of intellectual technologies. He argues that the mechanical clock compelled people to stop trusting their senses and trust its process. Today, the time to eat, work, play, and sleep is dictated by the mechanical clock. He is also concerned by Google developers’ statement that the human mind is ‘better off’ with the internet. He is worried about what happened to the times that the brain was considered a malleable feature.
The article, Is Google making us Stupid, addresses the impact of using the internet on the human mind. The response that most people would expect is a big no because increased reading and surfing should improve one’s brain. The idea that hyperlinks are developed in a way that they help Google, and other web developers make extra money are true, but what is happening to the human brain should not be blamed entirely on the internet. The internet user decides to shift from one link to the other. The colleagues and bloggers that Carr mentions in his article, and whom he claims have lost the ability to write and read as they used to, are evidence that it is a choice that people make because if you choose to read in a traditional manner, there is nothing that will stop you. People should desist from allowing technology to control their everyday activities and practices such as reading and writing.
From this summary, it is clear that personal discipline is a necessity, especially when using the internet. The internet is full of distractions that affect our ability to read, however, if one chooses to concentrate and employ critical thinking, then nothing will stop them from reading. Nicholas Carr’s statement that humans connect with the communication devices they use is true. The devices make our lives easier and fun but then at a cost that we should aim to avoid. People should be cautious about how they use technology; they should not allow it to enslave them. People have to make personal choices on how to use the internet, considering that critical thinking capabilities are in jeopardy.