How Our Brains Have Come Full Circle (In a Sense)

One quote I liked in particular from The Shallows was from page 63: “The natural state of the human brain, like that of the brains of most of our relatives in the animal kingdom, is one of distractedness.” A few sentences before this quote Carr wrote about how “readers didn’t just become more efficient [over time]. They also became more attentive.” The second quote acknowledges how the human brain is evolving overtime to accommodate the complex activity of reading. The first six chapters of The Shallows roughly outline a brief timeline of the human brain: distracted and scattered in the time of ancient civilizations and cavemen, more developed and focused at the dawn of the invention of writing, and then rapidly becoming more sophisticated and complex as reading and writing became a necessary element to everyday human life. This has been proven true on many accounts, looking back on how the works produced by humans over the years and how they have been getting more complex and sophisticated. With the emergence of modern day technology, humans have evolved more than ever. Our brains have rewired over the decades to adapt to constantly reading in small snippets, very quickly. Our intake of information has dramatically increased due to the greater ease of access to information on countless different topics, aiding to monumental research and general public knowledge. Almost 24/7 we are gathering and processing new information in our brains from all the screens and various signs we read, so of course our brains had to adapt to this new lifestyle that technology has led us to.

This constant intake of information in small bursts has, in a way, brought our brains back to the very distractedness that is mentioned in the quotes. Before the Internet gave us the ability to find new material to read and things to learn, humans had to go to libraries and to research in physical books, sitting in front of books for hours at a time. In order to extract information and learn things from text, readers had to immerse themselves in what they were reading. Today, the opposite is true. If we see an article online of more than a few paragraphs in length, we generally tend to try and find a shorter article on the same topic. Since the emergence of the Internet, we have become accustomed to finding what we need in a few paragraphs or less. This has lead us to become more distracted when presented with a “lengthy” piece of text. Even modern day research suggests ways to cope with the distractedness of our brains while studying (bullet 2, 4, and 7).

While modern technology and the Internet did bring positive monumental change to the world, and our way of living, it has taken a toll on our brains in the form of distractedness and the high demand for quick intake of information. The benefits of this technology does far outweigh the costs, but this proves to show that nothing comes without consequence.

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5 thoughts on “How Our Brains Have Come Full Circle (In a Sense)”

  1. These quotes truly represent how technology has changed our brains. My chosen quote from page 39 also talks about the evolution of our brain. Carr discusses this evolution with relation to technology and how even though we adapt, we still have to learn the best ways to manage both technology and our brain capacity.

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  2. It’s funny because while reading your response to Carr, I realized that I was constantly distracting myself as Netflix was sounding in the background and my eyes kept drifting to my phone, anticipating a text message that most likely would never come. Your words truly resonated with me at that point as I noticed my owns brain distraction. I specifically like MIT’s advice to set an alarm for how much time I should spend on social media sites. Whenever I wake up in the morning I immediately go to my phone to check all my social media sites, and I definitely find myself losing track of time. Maybe I should set an alarm for media usage as well.

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  3. I agree and think that since technology is relatively new, we still have to wait and see more evidence on how it effects our brains and then come up with more appropriate ways to balance the two out.
    I thought that article was a good, very relatable one so I’ glad you found it interesting!

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  4. Nicole, I like your observation near the end of your response that gains always come with corresponding losses. Linking this to your “full-circle” idea, I wonder if it might be argued that the Internet is restoring something—namely, social engagement with others—that diving silently into print texts tended to work against? I’m not saying, Net good, print bad, or vice versa, but rather trying to build on the idea that there are always trade-offs with any technology. ~Joe

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  5. You really simply explained what Carr did a lot to explain. The internet is so popular because it supplies our brains with a lot of sensory information, occupying our senses and distracting us- because our brains our initially made for distraction. Concentration is a learned thing.

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