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The article “Is Google Making Us Stupid” is written by Nicholas Carr published in the July/August 2008. Carr zealously asserts that the internet is making us stupid and revels of how the using of Web has made changes to our overall thinking and attention span. He introduces his arguments by using the research and experience such as conducted by other different groups and universities suggests that “we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we think”. So, is google making us stupid as Nicholas Carr said? My answer is No; Humans are not changing but era does.
Carr begins the essay by saying that his recent problems with concentrating on reading lengthy texts, including the books and articles that he used to read effortlessly, spending too much time on the Internet. He suggests that constantly using the Internet might reduce one’s ability to concentrate and reflect on the content. He introduces a few anecdotes taken from bloggers who write about the transformation in their reading and writing habits over time. Also, he analyzes a 2008 study by University College London about new “types” of reading that will emerge and become predominant in the information age. He particularly refers to the work of Maryanne Wolf, a reading behavior scholar, which includes theories about the role of technology and media in learning how to write new languages.
Carr argues that while speech is an innate ability that stems directly from brain structure, reading is conscious and taught. He acknowledges that this theory has a paucity of evidence so far but refers to such works as Wolf’s Proust and the Squid, which discusses how the brain’s neurons adapt to a creature’s environmental demands to become literate in new problem areas. The Internet, in his opinion, is just another kind of environment that we will uniquely adapt to.
What he worried about is, different from the internet, the computer is improving to be more human-like. We will become a simple automatic device. Through email, twitter these communication methods, users can have 36 dialogs simultaneously but not focus on any of these. Carr noticed that the worst result of this information explosion is, we are hard to focus our attention on specific area. It will make us become an anxious and half-knowledge reader. And as he mentioned, something is controlling our brains. The thinking way is different from the past, especially while we are reading. With reading two pages, our attention starts to drift and become anxious to find another thing to do. He thinks that it is caused by the network is controlling our brain circuit nerve.
He discusses how concentration might be impaired by Internet usage and references the historical example of Nietzsche, who used a typewriter, which was new during his time in the 1880s. Allegedly, Nietzsche’s writing style changed after the advent of the typewriter. Carr categorizes this example as demonstrative of neuroplasticity, a scientific theory that states neural circuits are contingent and in flux. He invokes the idea of sociologist Daniel Bell that technologies extend human cognition, arguing that humans unconsciously conform to the very qualities, or kinds of patterns, involved in these devices’ functions. He uses the clock as an example of a device that has both improved and regulated human perception and behavior.
It makes seems that google is making us to do some negative analysis, which guides us to believe in the information that he has provided. What deserves our attention is, though the information we collect from websites is specific authority dictates. Our critical thinking might not be improved so well, and we don’t have the ability to identify true and false. With reading books in a library, it forced us to leap of knowledge. However, it doesn’t happen anymore because the internet will help us to do it for us. When we are outsourcing our memory to the Internet, outsourcing our wisdom and even identity as well. As Carr says the internet like a drug, it meets us for a while, and easy to reach a low price. Just like chemical narcotics. This sharp stimulation leads to a short circuit of our consciousness and the unconscious thinking and hider deeper innovative thinking. George Mason’s neurologist James said drosophila can re-build its brain, in order to change the brain’s running function. Therefore, it is true that Google changing the way our brain as drosophila does.
Carr uses some powerful arguments to prove that the internet is making us lazy, I agree with this point. However, I think it is depended on which person. As a student major in computer science, our first ECE class is to teach us how to use Google searching. Therefore, in my subconscious mind, the internet is like an extension of the body. When I am facing a new program challenge, I am not passionate about thinking about the problem in my way, instead, I am too lazy to spend time researching and would rather just use internet sources such as a website called ‘stack overflow’. I can type in requirements of the program, with just clicking, it will come out various masterpieces of the predecessor. What’s more, after I finish English writing, I am not necessary to check grammar by myself, a website called ‘Grammarly’ do it for me. Regarding the short term, this so-called new way of thinking is more convenient and faster. However, this phenomenon is not conducive to better innovation and to learn a culture. Therefore, in some respects, it is true that Google is making me lazier.
Besides, I totally agree with the point that the internet disturbs our attention. As Carr says, people lose the ability and patience to read long articles. Indeed, it seems that I am keener on fragmented reading with some articles that websites recommended. Negative effects that fragmented reading can bring to our rational and logical thinking and criticism. Fragmentation reading is always with a brow or a grace; I can’t sink my heart to deeply understanding. The pros or cons has already had answer since the beginning. In the other side, most traditional books are specific targeted and introduce one aspect, we may know more about the background, which can help us to get deeper understanding.
Therefore, is it explained that the internet makes us stupid? I don’t think so. The answer to this question is fully opened. From my understanding, what Carr worried about can be describe as an old saying:” Things will develop in the opposite direction when they become extremely.” Google provide too much information and convenience. It is true we may lose something but what we get is far more than we lose. In most of the situations, the internet is still regarded as an important information receiver. It is a fast and convenient channel to get information and news from all over the world. Socrates wrote an article worried about this ancient information technology; he thinks that the use of reading to replace memory will make us not smart any longer. Similar arguments also exist since the printer and media created. Everything spread books and writing will lead to this argument.
Although this may bring regression to our brains. In the past 50 years, human IQ has a tremendous increase. Some people think that we are smarter than before and it can’t be explained by food or education level change. In my opinion, it doesn’t mean that we are smarter than our ancestors, just because we are different from them. Google makes a great contribution for us to use multiple kinds of resources. With the continuous development of the internet and big data, resources are being fully networked and digitized, it rises the ability of the internet to integrate resources.
Besides, I think the way humans’ thinking is changing and advancing with the era. While the virtual world causes change in human lifestyles, it also requires our thinking should be changed accordingly. Influenced by network technology, human mind mode in the network era reflects the characteristics of virtuosity, innovation, creativity, it improves our cognitive process and practice. The Internet also increases the speed of getting news, information. Since the internet exists, people’s cognitive abilities have been extremely broader. Paul Bloom who is a psychologist at Yale University believes that the internet can not only make people smarter but also kinder, it evokes the feeling of face to face communication.
What’s more, the internet can make our access to information much easier and realize democratized, helping groups in week position to have a chance competing with others. That’s why I don’t think people are not being stupid, just because we are living a new period, the network era. However, I agree with the points that the internet has changed our thinking way and makes us be lazier and disturb our attention. People are more reliant on internet tools and accustomed to fragmented reading. We should try our best to control ourselves do not too much on using internet resources.
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