Is the Internet Making Us Stupid?

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Right now, you're probably happy that you have the vast resources of the entire Internet at your fingertips. It's a feeling of power, isn't it? All that information, all that content, right there for you whenever you want it?

You probably shouldn't be feeling so good about it, says writer Nicholas Carr, who has just written an article for The Atlantic Monthly with the provocative title, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" Carr says that while the Internet allows us to get lots of information very quickly, it also encourages us not to look at it very thoughtfully.

In fact, Carr argues, when we give in to the natural impulses to click and skim, rather than to read and think, the Internet may actually doing us a disservice: It shortens our attention spans and even inhibits our ability to read longer books and articles.

In fact, if Carr is correct, you may never even make it to the end of this article.

Carr says it's not just about people scanning and jumping around very quickly. He says that the Internet is actually beginning to change the way we think. "It makes it harder even when we're offline to read books, as skimming takes over and displaces our modes of reading," he says.

It's not just Google Carr is talking about, but rather the structure and nature of the whole Internet. But he says that Google is very much the dominant player, and it both governs and symbolizes the way information is structured. "The way we gather information is by jumping around," he says, "and that's governed not only by Google but by the whole economic structure of the Internet."

Just as the arrival of Gutenberg's printing press helped to make reading universal, in the process ushering in enormous social revolutions, Carr says the Internet is producing a revolution of its own that is once again changing how we structure everything. While much of the revolution is positive, Carr says, he thinks that we should be aware that there might be some casualties, including prolonged reading and time for contemplation.

Carr tries to find time for more of what he calls deep reading, but he says that many of his friends are also facing difficulties in fighting Internet-influenced attention deficit disorder. In the article, he quotes one friend of his who told him: "I can't read War and Peace anymore. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it."

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