A song written in 2005 about what is going down in 2011!
Into the Silos
What do I know?
Whispering sweetest secrets
For all the World to hear
It’s live on television
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Reprinted without permission from http://www.ft.com
Review by Christopher Caldwell
Published: May 30 2010 21:16 | Last updated: May 30 2010 21:16
The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr, Norton, $26.99
The subtitle of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains leads one to expect a polemic in the tradition of those published in the 1950s about how rock ’n’ roll was corrupting the nation’s youth; or in the 1970s about how television was turning kids into idiots; or in the 1990s about the sociopathology of rap music. But this is no such book. It is a patient and rewarding popularisation of some of the research being done at the frontiers of brain science. Carr has lately found it harder to concentrate on the serious reading he used to love. He is taken aback by the number of smart people who no longer read books. He puts the blame on the mental habits we have all learnt on the internet.
As Carr reminds us, thinkers from Plato to Marshall McLuhan understood that our tools affect our thoughts. The invention of clocks changed our conception of time. Space has looked different since we invented the map. When failing vision forced Friedrich Nietzsche to take up typing instead of writing longhand, his prose style changed radically. Our tools and our skills change us because using them forms new connections in the brain. We have come to understand just how adaptable the brain is. Literate people’s brains look different from those of the illiterate. Scans taken in the 1990s showed that the typical London cab driver – who must acquire and retain “the knowledge” of all the streets in his enormous city – has a dramatically enlarged posterior hippocampus (the part of the brain where such information is stored and used).
This “plasticity”, as neurologists call it, sounds like good news. Discovering the right stimulus or tool might open up some new “circuit” that will allow us to read foreign languages more easily or learn calculus. But changes in our brains can just as easily shunt neurological traffic towards worthless things: an addiction, for instance, or an idiotic video game.
That is more or less what is happening, according to Carr. Books, he says , “are in their cultural twilight”. People spend 30 per cent of their leisure time online. In the early days of the internet, it was natural to think – or hope – that the hours required for this new pursuit would come out of television viewing. That did not happen. TV is holding steady. It is reading that is being pushed out. What is the neurological consequence? (more…)