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In Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, he exclaims that our use of technology and learning information is greatly altered in this day in age and that our minds have lost the ability for deep thinking. Carr presents this information and what can become of it with a harsh pessimistic thinking similar to Socrates in his time. He brings up multiple anecdotal accounts of evidence while also providing statistical evidence. I agree with Carr’s thinking on how Google is hindering our natural intelligence and making us reliant, while also seeing the positive side and how it is enabling us to outstep our normal human boundaries and achieve greater overall intelligence.
Carr starts off presenting his outlook on technology and how it is remapping our brain by comparing us to Hal from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Halls brain is similar to one of a current day human because he feels that our use of technology and the information given to us is restructuring our brain in a negative way. He no longer has the ability of a long attention span and critical deep thinking abilities. He presents the idea that over the years, his brain and its connections are being remapped and his deep reading skills have diminished. Carr backs up his own story with anecdotes from colleagues and literary acquaintances such as Bruce Friedman, Scott Karp and Marshall McLuhan, all portraying the same idea that the ability for deep reading and information intake is lost. “Skim reading” is now the modern way of absorbing information as the internet feeds that with hyperlinks and an abundance of information clicks away. Carr then presents a study of online research habits conducted by scholars from University College London exemplifying that people rarely read even a couple pages of one article and instead hop from one site to another loosely skimming its information. I am sided with Carr’s thinking as I myself have lost the attention span to read a whole novel and instead prefer using the internet and skimming for the information I am seeking.
Another example feeding Carr’s reasoning is the book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. Maryanne Wolf, the author and developmental psychologist at Tufts University, gives out the viewpoint that “we are not only what we read … we are how we read” (Carr 5). She argues that we are becoming closer to decoders of information rather than interpreters. While this opinionated viewpoint has some truth to it, I believe that we as humans are much more than “how we read”. People are products of their environment, lives and pastimes. While I see why Carr included this anecdote, it is important to remember how people choose to spend their time on the internet is solely up to the individual themself and what they are searching for. If one spends all day skimming through internet articles paying little attention, then that may be the case, but the internet provides a plethora of options completely relying on the users choices and decisions.
Carr continues presenting evidence and even relates our current technology to that of the past. He brings up the viewpoint of sociologist Daniel Bell, and his view that we inevitably begin to take on qualities of “intellectual technologies” (Carr 7) that are provided to us and ingrain them into our daily life. In addition to that, MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum provides the viewpoint that we as humans are slowly but surely converting from judgemental thinking to mathematical/mechanical thinking. A perfect example of technology changing our life and the way we think is the mechanical clock. This invention completely revolutionized our perception of life and how we can break it down into a mathematical system. The clock in a sense dictates our life from when we get up and go to sleep, to when to do our daily tasks. I agree with this outlook and believe that technology will become evermore ingrained into our minds and into our actions.
Another main point that Carr uses to strengthen his argument and my viewpoint of it, is the story of Frederick Winslow Taylor and his invention of “scientific management” (Carr 9-10). Taylor saw the ineffectiveness of factories and the production of products and proposed a solution to it. He broke down what was once one job into smaller parts with precise instructions much like machines do currently. At first workers were reluctant to stick with the strict instructions because of how automated they felt. Despite this, productivity soard and soon a new production model was formed completely changing productivity in the future. Taylor is quoted saying, “In the past man has been first… in the future the system must be first” (Carr 10). I strongly agree with Taylors viewpoint and applaud Carr for using this amazing example. In current day society, “the system” or modern day technology and the internet, is shaping our lives in a multitude of ways from automated processes in every imaginable aspect to growing power of big corporations putting out media for the masses. We are in turn a product of our consumption and the environment around us.
One of the biggest influences on our daily life is Google. Google takes in the world’s information and sorts it to our liking. The company’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” (Carr 11). Their outlook is that the more information we can access faster, the more we can extract and absorb into our own thinking. The accessibility of information and the ease of use has made deep reading and patience a thing of the past. The time to find information and to research a topic has reduced dramatically, enabling us to “skim read” through information to find what we want within seconds. Google even goes a step further by processing and storing user habits to auto-complete their thoughts and searches. In my opinion, this creates a “funnel” effect and narrows our interests and information we find online. Me like many others can testify that while there is an abundance of different websites and information on the internet, only a small percentage is actually viewed by the population in a sense narrowing our intake of information. Internet giants such as Google, YouTube, Netflix and Amazon, take up most of our time on the web, leaving our information intake up to them (Feinn). All these programs put us in”boxes” and our search results are tailored to what the platforms want us to see. This is not all bad news as, having this ease of access to information with the assistance of searches and suggested search items, helps us find what we need faster and can help us be more productive and efficient.
Later in the article, Carr concedes and sees his scepticism as worrisome and not analyzing the whole picture. He compares his thinking to thinkers of the past and their pessimistic view on modern inventions that change how information is spread. He starts off with Plato’s Phaedrus, where Socrates was sceptical of the development of writing. Socrates claimed that people would rely on writing and written information over spoken knowledge. He exclaimed that people would be able to become forgetful and filled with fake wisdom. Car then writes that Socrates, like himself, is shortsighted and is only foreboding a pessimistic outcome without seeing the possible benefits of the new invention. Carr also compares his thinking to those that negatively opinionated the printing press, such as Hieronimo Squarciafico claiming that having an abundance of available books would dampen intellectual levels and make men less studios. Carr the concedes again saying that, “the doomsayers were unable to imagine the myriad blessings that the printed word would deliver” (Carr 14). While Carr earlier in the article is very opinionated with his thinking and seems to have a clear mindset on the imperative question, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, he now is able to step back and realize that while there are negatives to new ways of thinking and learning information, there are also unforeseen positives that were unimaginable before the new technological advancement is implemented into society.
In sum, I strongly agree with Carr on his scepticism of google and his reasoning on why is hindering us and taking away abilities that have been ingrained in society. I also agree with his conceding viewpoint, and how it is easy to be sceptical and think of the bad things in new technology, but it is impossible to predict all the positive attributes that come with it too. While I agree with these attributes of the article, I don’t think it is too necessary to be scared of the future. The way things look now, there does not seem to be any slowdown in the exponential growth of technology and its advancement. Us as members of society should think about the downsides in these advancements, and try to avoid the negative aspects as much as we can while not forgetting the multitude of improvements that come along with it. In the big picture, Google is not really making us stupid, we are making our self stupid by the way we use Google.
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