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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

June 22, 2014 at 9:53 PM

#techbookbinge: ‘The Shallows’ sounds a narrow but compelling red alert about our brains

theshallowsI just finished “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains” by Nicholas Carr.

It’s book 1 in my summerlong #techbookbinge, and it was — appropriately — a brainy start.

Well, most of the time.

Some chapters infuriated me. If an alien race read this book and knew nothing else about us, they would think the Internet was for nothing but reading and consuming. Carr almost completely ignores online acts of creation and collaboration when he argues that the Internet is overly mechanizing the way we think.

But a chapter on memory near the end made me glad I stuck with him. In it he lays out the ways in which the human brain is not like a computer, and how the misleading metaphor makes us overlook some superpowers our technological habits could be putting at risk. A big one is the way our brain stores memories. They move and evolve and gain and lose rich associations based on the attention we pay them. A too busy brain doesn’t always get the chance.

I’m only sold on part of it. Actually, I’m not sure I’m sold on any of it. But to all those techies who, like me, heard it was too pessimistic to be worth the time, it’s not. It’s an important perspective with some compelling arguments.

He’s too in love with print books and too myopic about tech infringement on contemplative thinking. Otherwise, he’s worth a listen.

Next up: “Smarter Than You Think” by Clive Thompson…

Comments | More in Books | Topics: techbookbinge

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