The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

W. W. Norton & Company
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Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction: “Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind.”—Michael Agger, Slate “Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer—Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.

Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic—a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption—and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes—Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive—even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.
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About the author

Nicholas Carr is the author of The Shallows, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and The Glass Cage, among other books. Former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, he has written for The Atlantic, the New York Times, and Wired. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Additional Information

W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
Jun 6, 2011
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Science / Philosophy & Social Aspects
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A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

¿Qué está haciendo Internet con nuestras mentes?

Este libro cambiará para siempre nuestro modo de entender y aprovechar las nuevas tecnologías.

«¿Google nos vuelve estúpidos?» Nicholas Carr condensó así, en el título de un célebre artículo, uno de los debates más importantes de nuestro tiempo: mientras disfrutamos de las bondades de la Red, ¿estamos sacrificando nuestra capacidad para leer y pensar con profundidad? En este libro, Carr desarrolla sus argumentos para crear el más revelador análisis de las consecuencias intelectuales y culturales de Internet publicado hasta la fecha.

Nuestro cerebro, como demuestran las evidencias científicas e históricas, cambia en respuesta a nuestras experiencias, y la tecnología que usamos para encontrar, almacenar y compartir información puede, literalmente, alterar nuestros procesos neuronales. Además, cada tecnología de la información conlleva una ética intelectual. Así como el libro impreso servía para centrar nuestra atención, fomentando el pensamiento profundo y creativo, Internet fomenta el picoteo rápido y distraído de pequeños fragmentos de información de muchas fuentes. Su ética es una ética industrial, de la velocidad y la eficiencia.

La Red nos está reconfigurando a su propia imagen, volviéndonos más hábiles para manejar y ojear superficialmente la información pero menos capaces de concentración, contemplación y reflexión. Este libro cambiará para siempre nuestro modo de entender y aprovechar las nuevas tecnologías.

«Absorbente y perturbador. Todos bromeamos sobre cómo Internet nos está convirtiendo, y especialmente a nuestros hijos, en cabezas de chorlito acelerados incapaces de meditaciones profundas. No es ninguna broma, insiste Carr, y a mí me ha convencido.»
John Horgan, The Wall Street Journal

«Una réplica calmada y elocuente a aquellos que afirman que la cultura digital es inofensiva, que afirman, de hecho, que nos estamos volviendo más listos cada minuto que pasa simplemente porque podemos conectarnos a un ordenador y dejarnos llevar por un interminable carrusel de links.»
Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune













王智弘 彰化師範大學輔導與諮商學系教授

李家同 清華大學榮譽教授

李偉文 牙醫師、親子作家、環保志工

洪 蘭 中央大學認知神經科學研究所創所所長

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梁文道 知名文化評論家

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