Our Mind Is Going

The subtitle of Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows is a statement that has many varying angles to it. The subtitle reads, “What the Internet is doing to our brains”. In short, it is doing quite a bit, some good, some bad. But, the greater question that can be broken off from Carr’s writings is, what is the Internet allowing our brains to become? Carr begins the first chapter of the book with a reference to Stanley Kubrick’s 1967 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. When writing about the film Carr specifically quoted a line uttered by HAL, the computer that controlled the ship our protagonist Dave was traveling in. Dave was unplugging and destroying HAL late in the movie, to which the computer responded, “Dave, my mind is going.” Carr would go on to utilize the quote through his first chapter in reference to the lack of focus the typical American mind has when in use of the Internet. However, I read this classic quote and felt that it could be interpreted in another way, an angle that Carr would address later on in his book. For me, the collective ‘mind’ of the average American citizen has been ‘going’ for quite some time in regards to inability to function on its own merit without the internet. Time and time again in conversation, debate, or any sort of interaction I have with friends, family, or classmates questions or facts are presented, and yet almost every time the people in the conversation are not the ones to answer or respond. The unique thoughts or beliefs of these people are not presented in response. These individuals always go right to their phones and the Internet. They can never think for themselves, the Internet must do the thinking for them. In the seventh chapter of The Shallows Carr states, “When we’re online, we’re often oblivious to everything else going on around us”; we shut off everything real and physical in our world and are reduced to merely interpreters of results of our Google search. The world created by the Internet in 2017 is one in which answers must be 100 percent accurate and rapid, so people are never left to think for themselves now or even trust their own intellect; we are consumed with the instant gratification our computers provide us with. In an article written by Daniel Wegner on Scientific American, located at http://bit.ly/2lIFtmS, Wegner states that he feels the ease of access to the internet at its resources, “… may not only eliminate the need for a partner with whom to share information—it may also undermine the impulse to ensure that some important, just learned facts get inscribed into our biological memory banks.” The Internet being at each and every person’s fingertips is, in a sense, taking our humanity from us. One could say, our mind is going. So in response to my originally posed question, the Internet is allowing our brains to become a screen; not capable of producing results or interaction, just capable of mirroring the search engine results found on the Internet. This is a reality Nicholas Carr understood and conveyed in The Shallows all too well.

Author: James K

My Life consists of the 5 F's: Family, Friends, Film, Football, and Food

6 thoughts on “Our Mind Is Going”

  1. I think the point you make about society as a whole being dependent on the internet and in a sense controlled by it has a lot of merit. For one, we are using this site to post comments and statuses via the internet, so that in itself is somewhat of an indication of this. Furthermore, I personally feel that without the internet, I would be much less apt to search through reference books when I had a question and I have almost entirely become dependent on Google to help me out. Finally, I think the internet controls most of our society due to the fact that all of our important tasks can now be done over the internet: shopping, banking, etc (not to mention the fact that our government and every other government functions using the internet to communicate, keep public records, and much more).

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  2. The internet is automating a lot of processes, much like other pieces of technology have done in the past. You’re right that people don’t feel the need to know relevant information because they can look it up online, but I firmly disagree that this has had any impact on independent thought. The internet has simply replaced the roll of listening to other’s points of view and knowledge in person. Before the internet, people did not blindly follow the words of experts on radio or television, or change their views because of what was in a book or newspaper, and I don’t think they do now either.

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  3. Our brains becoming a screen isn’t something that I have thought of before, but it’s an interesting idea that you raise. I have noticed my the remapping of my brain, as Carr describes in the book, but thinking about it becoming a screen is a new idea to me. I agree with you that we consume information and interact depending on technology. We expect information to be easily and quickly accessible, and maybe we are beginning to expect our interactions with each other to be that way as well.

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  4. I agree that people are very quick to jump to technology if a question is posed. I think it is just because we are used to having information available to us at the touch of a button, so to leave an unanswered quarry in the air is something we just don’t do anymore as a people. But I think I’m too optimistic to think our brains and how they work are a lost cause…habits are hard to break, but it is doable.

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  5. Thanks for your responses, I do not believe that our minds are completely a lost cause, but I do think that there is a noticeable over reliance on the internet. This is not to say we are destined to become robotic and lose our humanity, but I do think it is a valid concern and troublesome in respect to how we act when it is not available.

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  6. James, I’m mad at myself, b/c I know I wrote a response to this, but I guess I somehow failed to save and post it. In any case, I am struck by your use of our mind. I’d be really interested to hear more about what you think it might mean to think of the internet as itself having an intelligence. Would that be the moment of The Singularity? ~Joe

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