W. W. Norton & Company
In a 2008 Atlantic cover story, Nicholas Carr asked the question "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" His provocative thesis—that Internet use is literally altering our brains—triggered a massive debate about concentration in a relentless digital world. In Carr's new book The Shallows, he explores in greater depth the cognitive and historic implications of these changes, comparing the Internet's impact to that of other technological innovations, including the printed book. He finds that "in the choices we have made, consciously or not, about how we use our computers, we have rejected the intellectual tradition of solitary, single-minded concentration, the ethic that the book bestowed on us." Carr continues his examination of the Internet's effect on our lives in the July-August issue of The Atlantic, with the article "Googlethink".
Here, Carr discusses the Web's effect on the way we think, and why his life has been happier since he started spending less time online.
You write that the Internet encourages a mental ethic of speed and, in effect, distraction. Tell us a little about how you arrived at this idea.
It was originally spurred by my own personal experience. Like a lot of people, I had been using the Net heavily for more than a decade. In fact, every time the Web gained some new capability, I used it more. What I started noticing around 2007 was that I seemed to be losing my ability to concentrate. Not just when I was sitting at a computer. Even when the computer was off and I tried to read a book, to sustain a single train of thought, I found it difficult.