Essay On "Is Google Making US Stupid?"
Nicholas Carr in his article titled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" that was published in The Atlantic in July 2008, asserts that the internet is making us more fidgety, unfocused and has killed our reading culture. He starts off the article by using a scene from the 2001 movie Space Odyssey where the character HAL cries out that he can feel his mind going, this is how Carr feels about his mind (2008). In my opinion I think that Carr is an alarmist and like many other people, is scared of new technology and change in general. This is the same argument that we heard in the 60’s when television came along that it was distracting us from conventional reading but here we are 50 years later, still reading and still innovating. The internet is a new effective avenue of learning and does not make us stupid, if anything, it has improved our thinking and spurned many life changing innovations.
I find Carr’s linkage of his distracted mind to the internet as inaccurate since distractions are everywhere, in the environment and even in our own minds. The constant distraction by other things happens not only in the internet but also in the library. When I visit the library I am always distracted by books on subjects that I really like such as cookery and psychology which are not the reason of my visit to the library. The onus, is therefore upon me to discipline myself and concentrate only on why I went to library, the same applies to the internet.
Carr presents evidence of the change in how we read and think from the British Library and a U.K education consortium that their readers “exhibited a form of skimming activity,” and that they never read more than two pages of a book or an article (2008). However, skimming and scanning is the nature of research and it used to happen even before the advent of the internet, it only that it is now so much easier to trace through the use of technology, surely no one reads an entire book just to find one quote!
Has our reading culture changed? Yes, but it has not, by any means died. Just because we read from the internet, on screens, does not mean that we have stopped reading. Forbes magazine reported that “sales of Kindle devices stood at roughly 20 million in 2013, bringing about $3.9 billion in revenues” (2014) and that the sale of e-books brought in about $530 million. This shows that people are still reading, perhaps even more, but not from the conventional sources. The massive success of internet age novels such as Game of thrones and Catching fire show that people are still reading and that Carr is just being an alarmist.
Carr also uses the work of Maryanne Wolf, a psychologist, to support his claim that the way we think is changing. Wolf is worried that that the internet has changed our mode of thinking to one that requires immediacy and efficiency and that we have become “mere decoders of information,” unable to interpret text of make “rich connections.” (2008)
Yet the number of innovations, especially by young people who were born in the internet age, proves otherwise. Not only are we reading, we are innovating new and exciting things. Look at Facebook, twitter, whatsapp and numerous applications on the android and apple platforms, all created by very young people. The most intriguing thing is that most of these innovators and developers credit their success to the internet where they were able to learn new programming languages, on their own. So these assertions are not entirely true and are made by people in the older generation who perhaps do not know how to fully utilize the internet to their advantage (Goldwasser, 2008).
Carr’s article depends heavily, some say too heavily, on an amalgamation of quotes and anecdotes from outside sources. This causes him to lose his voice as an author since all these sources drown out what his point really is. Most of his claims do not have solid scientific backing, especially those claims that our minds and the way we think is changing. For one to be fully certain about this, years of clinical studies by neurologists are required, he does not have this.
The internet is a powerful and revolutionary tool that has simplified so many aspects of our lives such as banking, shopping, communication and healthcare. Carr focuses only on some minor issues, which I think are personal, and uses them to declare that the internet is making us stupid whereas it has opened so many doors for people such as online education and changed their lives. The internet is an important and powerful tool that will keep changing the world for the better.
Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”. The Atlantic. July 2008. Web. Accessed 5th March 2015.
Team, Trefis. “Estimating Kindle E-Book Sales For Amazon” Forbes. February 2014. Web. Accessed 5th March 2015.
Goldwasser, Amy. "What's the Matter With Kids Today?" salon. March 2008. Web. Accessed 5th March 2015.