The Shallows


Nicholas Carr describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by different technologies, from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer.

Favorite quotes from the book:

Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba driver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

“You are right,” Nietzsche replied. “Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.“

Descartes may have been wrong about dualism, but he appears to have been correct in believing that our thoughts can exert a physical influence on, or at least cause a physical reaction in, our brains. We become, neurologically, what we think.

Our use of the Internet involves many paradoxes, but the one that promises to have the greatest long-term influence over how we think is this one: the Net seizes our attention only to scatter it.

And so we ask the Internet to keep interrupting us, in ever more and different ways. We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive. Tuning out is not an option many of us would consider.

Of all the sacrifices we make when we devote ourselves to the Internet as our universal medium, the greatest is likely to be the wealth of connections with our own minds.

When we outsource our memory to a machine, we also outsource a very important part of our intellect and even our identity.

… as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.

Creating a hard copy of an experience through media leaves only a diminished copy in our own heads.

When we turn to these devices [smartphones], we generally learn and remember less from our experiences.