I stumbled onto another book that looks interesting. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. The subtitle of the book is What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Mr. Carr writes books and articles on business, technology, and culture. In 2008 he wrote an article for The Atlantic titled Is Google Making Us Stupid. The Shallows, published in 2010, is an extension of that article. I haven’t read the book but I think I’m going to have to. It looks interesting. Some chapter titles are ‘What the brain thinks about when it thinks about itself’, ‘The juggler’s brain’, and ‘The Church of Google’.
When I first saw something about this book I thought he had to be all wrong. I love the internet age and computers in general. I don’t worry about proper spelling anymore. I put up something approximate, right click, and choose the correct spelling. Want some background on the Magna Carta? Google it. Wikipedia will give you more than you ever wanted to know. Who won the Heisman Trophy in 1968? Google away. It’s all out there and easy to get to.
I know. I know. You can spend your days keeping up with the Kardashians instead of learning something. You can sit there clicking from one bright shiny object to another and I confess in my fallow moments I may do a little of that. But you can’t blame that on the internet and Google. People magazine was around long before the internet. The truth is there is a world of knowledge at our fingertips and we have only to type a phrase to find out about anything we want.
But wait. There is a danger here. When I was a kid we had a set of the World Book encyclopedia. It wasn’t the Encyclopedia Britannica but still pretty good. Both were written by authorities on the various subjects. You could depend on them. Wikipedia is produced and maintained by amateurs, by anybody who wants to contribute. We tend to believe anything we find on the internet in general and Wikipedia in particular. The truth is we can’t really tell fact from opinion from pure fabrication.
So what do we do? First I think we need to recognize what’s important and what’s not. I really doesn’t matter what Jennifer Aniston said to Angelina Jolie at the Golden Globes. And for the things that do matter look to reliable trusted sources and even then wait for corroboration from other trusted sources.
We can let Google and the internet dumb us down but we don’t have to.