- Tapa blanda: 280 páginas
- Editor: Norton & Company; Edición: Reprint (1 de agosto de 2011)
- Idioma: Inglés
- ISBN-10: 0393339750
- ISBN-13: 978-0393339758
- Valoración media de los clientes: 4.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas Ver todas las opiniones (1 opinión de cliente)
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- n.° 195 en Libros en idiomas extranjeros > Informática, internet y medios digitales > Ciencias informáticas
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (Inglés) Tapa blanda – ago 2011
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Nicholas Carr has written an important and timely book. See if you can stay off the web long enough to read it! --Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change"
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Is the Internet making us stupid? In this book, Nicholas Carr argues that the Internet is changing dramatically how we think, remember and interact.Ver Descripción del producto
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The argument in question?
- Greater access to knowledge is not the same as greater knowledge.
- An ever-increasing plethora of facts & data is not the same as wisdom.
- Breadth of knowledge is not the same as depth of knowledge.
- Multitasking is not the same as complexity.
The studies that Carr presents are troubling, to say the least. From what has been gleaned to date, it's clear that the brain retains a certain amount of plasticity throughout life -- that is, it can be reshaped, and the way that we think can be reshaped, for good or for ill. Thus, if the brain is trained to respond to & take pleasure in the faster pace of the digital world, it is reshaped to favor that approach to experiencing the world as a whole. More, it comes to crave that experience, as the body increasingly craves more of anything it's trained to respond to pleasurably & positively. The more you use a drug, the more you need to sustain even the basic rush.
And where does that leave the mind shaped by deep reading? The mind that immerses itself in the universe of a book, rather than simply looking for a few key phrases & paragraphs? The mind that develops through slow, quiet contemplation, mulling over ideas in their entirety, and growing as a result? The mature mind that ponders possibilities & consequences, rather than simply going with the bright, dazzling, digital flow?
Nowhere, it seems.
Carr makes it clear that the digital world, like any other technology that undeniably makes parts of life so much easier, is here to stay. All the more reason, then, to approach it warily, suspiciously, and limit its use whenever possible, since it is so ubiquitous. "Yes, but," many will say, "everything is moving so fast that we've got to adapt to it, keep up with it!" Not unlike the Red Queen commenting that it takes all of one's energy & speed to simply remain in one place while running. But what sort of life is that? How much depth does it really have?
Because some aspects of life -- often the most meaningful & rewarding aspects -- require time & depth. Yet the digital world constantly makes us break it into discrete, interchangeable bits that hurtle us forward so rapidly & inexorably that we simply don't have time to stop & think. And before we know it, we're unwilling & even unable to think. Not in any way that allows true self-awareness in any real context.
Emerson once said (as aptly quoted by Carr), "Things are in the saddle / And ride mankind." The danger is that we'll not only willingly, even eagerly, wear those saddles, but that we'll come to desire them & buckle them on ever more tightly, until we feel naked without them. And we'll gladly pay anything to keep them there, even as we lose the capacity to wonder why we ever put them on in the first place.
Most highly recommended!
Carr argues that with the advent of reading humanity developed a different kind of neural structure. Reading which was an extension of story- telling enabled us to begin to speak to ourselves, to contemplate reality in deeper ways. The bookman mind is a deeper mind than the electronic - mind , despite MacLuhan's contrary take.
Still one might argue that we need not be the slaves of the predominant technology. It all depends upon the will, decision, determination of the individual. The horde may decide to operate in a certain way, but one has the power to shut the machine off. Or one has the power to turn away from the Net, and focus only on one text one wants to work with. Many of us are engaged in making these decisions all the time.
Still I would say that my own experience substantiates Carr's main thesis. I have wasted in the past few years far too much time, jumping from one thing to another.
Nonetheless there is no turning back from the Revolution which Carr considers to be certainly the greatest since the introduction of the Printing press, and perhaps greatest since the introduction of the Alphabet and the Number System.
Perhaps what is truly required is a 'proper mix of both ways of 'reading and seeing' of both 'modes of being' i.e. the short- term internet attention mode, and the longer book- concentration mode. And this as I sense that when many begin to feel an exhaustion from the jumping around, come to understand it does not really help them in pursuit of their main goal, there will be some reaction in the other direction.
The Shallows is a thoroughly and broadly researched and beautifully written polemic which I found to represent two different things. First, it is a media analysis and culture critique. Second it is a pessimistic theory about the overall effect of web media on our thinking ability over time.
The first aspect will be a delight for those interested in the evolution of human cognition, those fascinated with media effects per se, the traditionally minded book scholars, and assorted geezers. It is a very satisfying cultural media critique very much in the spirit of Marshall Macluhan and Neil Postman even though it lacks Macluhan's showmanship or Postman's remarkable ever-present humor. It was this aspect made the book a worthwhile reminder for me, introduced me to some fascinating recent cognitive science work supporting the view that different media encourage different ways of thinking, and helped tie together a number of broad ideas for me regarding the evolution of human cognition and the influence of the tools we use.
The second aspect, for the more technically psychologically minded, and the more alarmist and pessimistic part, is a clever argument for competing and mutually destructive habits of attention allocation: (1) the nimble web browsing mind that constantly reserves attention and working memory for making navigational decisions and is exposed to massive amounts of information, and (2) the sustained attention ability that we learn with great effort over time for the purpose of reading and reflective thinking.
The second aspect is the one that most of the articles and marketing have been pushing, a thesis I'll call "Help! The Internet is Frying My Brain!"
Carr argues that the nimble web mind better exploits our more natural "bottom-up" or stimulus driven attention mechanisms, which is why we find it so powerful. He also argues that the undistracted reflective mind is far less natural but has unique advantages for human cognition. So it is worth retaining, he argues, _and_ we need to keep working deliberately at it in order to retain it. That alone would be an important point. Thus far, I think the attention argument is completely consistent with the media critique, and supports it. None of this so far says that our brain is being fried by the Internet.
Now comes the trickier part, and the part of Carr's thesis that to me is most controversial, the two ways of using attention may not only compete but may actually be mutually destructive. Carr offers his own experience and that of several other serious book readers to show that they are having increasing trouble reading for prolonged periods. Carr says that there is neuroscience data showing that this may be the result of web reading rather than just advancing age or other less ominous explanations.
This "fried brain" thesis is the part that is either revolutionary, or becomes the fatal flaw in The Shallows, depending on whether or not it is true. So is it true? Does Carr persuade us that not only are we thinking differently with different media (a very strong case I think) but that the Internet is frying our brains?
Today we remember the iconic wise curmudgeon, Socrates, only through his students. That's because old Soc didn't believe in writing. It seems he was a great proponent of contemplative thought and taught that contemplation depends heavily on memory. He thought it would seriously hurt people's memory to rely too much on writing things down. His criticism seems perverse today, even as we remember Soc fondly for his deep reflection and his provocative teaching methods. That's the historical role into which Nicholas Carr has cast himself, the media critic who invokes wisdom and reflection and plays them against seemingly unstoppable cultural trends towards greater convenience, efficiency, and information distribution.
Carr is the guy who wants to warn us about the hazards of writing on our memory. About the damage that the printing press will do to culture. About how TV will change us for the worse. And now about how the Internet will shift our values, instill bad habits, hurt our reading and thinking skills, and even destroy our powers of sustained concentration.
Socrates wasn't entirely wrong even though he bucked a trend that in retrospect was downright silly to oppose. People who don't specifically practice remembering things and instead devote everything to writing do find that they have weaker memories. That's the reason for all those memory courses, the best of which essentially just teach the same methods socrates would have used. The widespread distribution of news did have negative consequences in terms of reinforcing bias and propaganda on a massive scale.
There are some adverse consequences of all the TV watching we do. However none of these things has had the dire consequences that culture critics predicted, we have adapted in turn in some way to each of them, more or less successfully.
So Carr isn't entirely wrong about the tradeoffs involved in using modern technologies. He is not a "Luddite" and he does make a number of valid points.
Carr is not telling us to dismantle the Internet. He fully recognizes the value of technology. He is rather playing Socrates to the modern students. Most people, desperately trying to keep up with the amazing new technologies and learn new ways of getting better information with them will ignore Carr's message pretty much out of hand. "Carr is the only one affected negatively by the Internet, the rest of us are thriving."
Those folks who ignore culture critics out of hand are taking for granted the skills and expertise that many people have cultivated through sheer effort using sustained concentration. They are buying into the attractive fashionable modern viewpoint that just being exposed to a lot of information via technology will make you smart. The majority of people, the ones who go along with that implicit confusion of information and personal knowledge, will indeed lose some of the things we take for granted today. I think Carr is right about that, and that is the most profound message in this book. LISTEN TO IT. Even if you think, with good reason, that it is silly to imagine that using search engines and hyperlinks will hurt your concentration.
Still, the message that the Internet will make us stupid isn't quite right. Writing didn't entirely destroy our memory, it just shifted the habits we need to cultivate to preserve it. It seems like the wisest among us will recognize the value that culture critics like Carr have always had, they will appreciate the detail and care that good media critics like Carr put into their warnings, and they will remember the real tradeoffs between different kinds of media and take responsibility for the cultivation of their own minds.
Just as wise modern students still practice the methods used by Socrates, they will still learn to read and think deeply using books or the electronic equivalent, the wisest will still turn off the TV and other distractions when sustained concentration is called for, and they will understand the difference between various conditions and different kinds of media in general and will use each to its best advantage.
So long as we aren't stupid enough to stop cultivating our individual minds regardless of technology changes, media itself will not make us stupid. Listen to Carr's message, learn it, and then apply it to your use of technology. It's easy to dismiss the claim that the Internet will somehow fry your brain. It's another matter entirely to dismiss the value of cultivating your mind through personal reflection.
Related background reading:
On the evolution of cognition and symbolic thought (and secondarily, the role of reading):
A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness
The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain
On reading and the brain:
Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention
Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
On the role of tools in cognition:
Adaptive Thinking: Rationality in the Real World (Evolution and Cognition Series)
On the role of media technology in culture:
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology
On the trend to rising IQ scores in modern times:
What Is Intelligence?: Beyond the Flynn Effect
On the practical limitations of human working memory:
Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long
The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory
That said, The Shallows is somewhat less than the original Atlantic article in that Carr, as he approaches the end, falls into the most predictable sort of romantic nostalgia. We're becoming machines. The machines are taking our souls away. The Internet is compromising our integrity as humans. Machines are colonizing our minds. Soon they will be more interesting than we are, just like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I've heard this all before! Certainly, a man as clever and as hard-working as Nicholas Carr could have thought a little harder.
(An aside: Perhaps he's proving his point that we've already lost our ability to think deeply. Or perhaps he's DISproving his point that going to country--Carr had to "get away from it all" to write this book--helps us to be contemplative whereas cities only distract us.)
We need people who care about the things books have done for us and continue to do for us who can *also* think beyond the nineteenth century. We can't leave this to the machine people. So, I end up in the middle on this book: 3 stars. The first 80% is good but it fails to deliver a "where we go from here..." Let the good parts inspire the rest of us to take up where Carr has left off.
Word for word, this is not as interesting or well-written as his original article. In many places it tends to be stretched a bit thin -- which seems odd for a book on this topic. For example, since he is essentially expanding on an originally limited argument, he feels obliged to include a lot of well-worn history to expand the scope of media. We really don't need to know about Sumerian cuneiform or wax tablets or Greek philosophers (beyond the very obvious point that there is a history of media) for the argument he's making, since they don't fundamentally affect his argument.
Another weak point about the book is the writing on the brain and neuroplasticity. Since Carr is not a scientist himself, he doesn't have the background to write about this in a really authoritative way. What he has done is to work mainly off secondary (and tertiary) sources; basically taking for granted what other people have said. This shows through in a few areas where he relies too heavily on books such as Doidge's "The Brain that Changes Itself", already a pretty diluted look at neuroscience written by a psychoanalyst. If you want to know how reading and writing have changed the organization of the brain, there is a much better book out there called "Reading and the Brain" by Stanislas Dehaene. (a little digression here -- reading/writing have changed our perceptual mechanisms in the brain, while the internet is probably changing something like attentional control and executive function, so there are some important caveats to the phrase that "the medium is the message")
However, the chapter on memory was excellent, and brought me back into his argument. He makes the very important point (and one that won't be as obvious to most readers) that memory doesn't function like a hard drive; that instead it forms a central part of the way that we think. So there is a fundamental error in trying to "offload" our memory onto the web -- by not internalizing information, and instead thinking that we can just look at it later -- and one that we are probably not aware of.
Overall, I can't help but thinking that, despite his argument, it's a better world with the internet. Carr points out that the strategy that he used in writing the book was to rely on the best of both systems -- the fast internet for preliminary thinking and gathering sources, and quiet contemplation away from the internet to gather his thoughts and write the book. To have that option is something that is useful to be aware of.
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