There is a continuing trend in academia to try and make yourself best known through racy and controversial articles and papers. The latest, riffing off his new book entitled The Big Switch, Nick Carr will see an article of his published in the July issue of The Atlantic. There is no doubt that the article exceptional and provocative, that much is clear, but is he in any way right?
Pulling the quotes from the article in The Atlantic from News.com’s article on Carr, the author has this to say;
The human brain is almost infinitely malleable....James Olds, a professor of neuroscience who directs the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, says that even the adult mind "is very plastic...The brain...has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions."
As we use what the sociologist Daniel Bell has called our "intellectual technologies"--the tools that extend our mental rather than our physical capacities--we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies.
Carr puts forth the idea, as does Matt Asay from News.com’s The Open Road blog that the internet, rather than helping, is going to hinder our mental progress. They believe that because everything is interconnected – mail, news, information – that our ability to retain and process information will dwindle.
Once again from The Open Road blog, Carr has this to say;
The Internet promises to have particularly far-reaching effects on cognition....The Internet, an immeasurably powerful computing system, is subsuming most of our other intellectual technologies. It's becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV.
When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is recreated in the Net's
image. It injects the medium's content with hyperlinks, blinking ads,
and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the
content of other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for
instance, may announce its arrival as we're glancing over the latest
headlines at a newspaper's site. The result is to scatter our attention
and diffuse our concentration.
I think though that Carr has missed a massive point, or has just decided it isn’t worth considering. There are of course statistics that back up Carr’s point. Consider that, according to the statistics, the average American reads one book per year. This of course brings together those who read none and those who read many more than one, but the stats speak for themselves.
However I would suggest that America is not a case study for the rest of the world, especially in terms of intellectual improvement and development. When you put things in to ratio, America doesn’t have a greater number of intellectuals or great minds compared to any other country. They simply have a larger pool of applicants. It is the same with the Olympic Games; America only does better because they have a larger pool of athletes to choose from.
The internet is actually helping many of us increase in knowledge and intelligence. We are learning more and more, storing that knowledge, and applying it to the way we live our lives. Wikipedia is a perfect example of this. While there is a lot of bad press and hype about the community encyclopedia, it nevertheless provides a great wealth of accurate information.
Carr’s theory could probably be shelved alongside the theory that was popular when video games first made their entrance. Everyone thought that my generation would end up slackers, with no jobs, simply because we played video games. Putting aside the fact that video games have provided an entirely new industry, I’m relatively certain I’m not a slacker or a bum, and that I’m working pretty hard.
Posted by Josh Hill.
Source link: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-9962935-16.html
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