Shrinking or Expanding?


In the latter part of his book, Carr really delves into his argument for what the internet, or technology as a whole is really doing to our minds. I thought it would be interesting to compare his beginning thoughts, or his recognition of certain technologies as neither really good nor bad to his later argument. To do so, I’m going to call back what I wrote about in my first response to Carr on this page. My example starts on page 44 when Carr writes, “Every technology is an expression of human will,” and continues to categorize technology into four categories. The fourth category was of particular interest to me – being the category that Carr cites as “intellectual technologies” that help us to measure things, articulate certain ideas, and to support our mental powers.

Later on in the book, on page 212, Carr uses the example of London taxi drivers. He starts the paragraph in an interesting way, with a definite difference in language of how he approaches the use of technology: “We’re likely going through another such adaptation today as we come to depend on computerized GPS devices to shepherd us around.” I want to call attention to Carr’s diction of “shepherd” in that sentence. The connotations that follow that choice of word certainly set the tone for the London taxi driver example, and he follows through by citing Eleanor Maguire, the neuroscientist who led the study of the brains of London taxi drivers. The neuroscientist is quoted in this example saying, “We very much hope they don’t start using [GPS]…the area of the brain increased in grey matter volume because of the huge amount of data [the drivers] have to memorize. If they all start using GPS, that knowledge base will be less and possibly affect the brain changes we are seeing.” GPS essentially being like a map – the fourth category of technology, that is supposed to SUPPORT our mental powers – is then shrinking them. A curious case.

First, I want to note the change in tone from the beginning of the book to the latter half. Carr doesn’t necessarily praise technology when he categorizes it, but he certainly notes the merits of each category, and how it’s simply human attempts to control a certain thing in their lives. And then as he gets into the meat of his argument(s) we not only see the change in tone, but also the examples he uses to show us how even these technologies that should inherently expand our knowledge of the world (GPS), can also hinder our ability to gain knowledge if we become reliant on these technologies. This example of the London cab drivers is just one example, and I’m not saying I agree with him, but it makes me think of where I’d be without Google Maps, or my iPhone. Have I become that reliant on all of these things? Could I be as efficient without them? How would my life change without them? Is technology shrinking or expanding our mental faculties?

Author: Jake B

I am an Economics student with an interest in writing, business, and how the economies of the world work. Whether the problems are in labor markets, policy issues, or small business, I am ripe to learn about anything and everything that may affect change in these interests.

6 thoughts on “Shrinking or Expanding?”

  1. It was nice of you to connect two quotes in the second half back to a quote in the first half of the book. Carr seems to have contradicted himself in what he said about intellectual technologies. I did not notice this on my own while reading the book. I personally think that technologies like GPS are certainly helping us monumentally but at the same time are making us more dependent on them. I can relate to this personally when I was lost on a highway and my phone was about to die- I was freaking out because I did now know the area and did not have my precious GPS to help navigate to a familiar place.


  2. I think your image choice is very appropriate and I like that you placed it before any of your writing. It sets the stage perfectly for your writing about how we could be shrinking instead of expanding our knowledge.


  3. First, you are very well organized in your response, which is nice. I also liked that you brought in the fact that maybe Carr was not absolutely condemning the internet and what it means for people. He could also discuss how it is useful. It is good that you connected it with your first response, it shows that you noticed that Carr developed the text.


  4. I found your point about GPS hindering us to be very interesting. I never truly thought that my constant use of this technology could actually be shrinking my brain, instead of increasing it. I do, however, find my self in a chaotic state whenever I am trying to get to a destination and do not have the luxury of GPS. And if someone put a map in front of me, I would surely confuse myself even more. I don’t know if I would agree that Carr contradicts himself necessarily. I think he writes about both perspectives of technology, the good and the bad, because really, who can say that technology is 100% either or?


  5. Technology is a double edged sword. In the case of the taxi-drivers, it has bolsters parts of their memory facilities in the brain. But as we know, GPS systems make navigation easy, rendering our physical and mental maps obsolete. So I wonder, much like yourself, if I could truly get around without the aid of my phone. Would it be easy? And as a side note, how long would it take to bolster our brain’s memory capabilities if we too wanted to navigate an area like London without assistance?


  6. The complexities of our brain and our ability to either shrink or expand our knowledge will probably baffle us for quite some time. If my writing came off as saying that Carr contradicted himself, I apologize, that’s not what I was going for. I simply wanted to show the development of his idea(s) throughout the text, from a very early point to a later point. I appreciate all the feedback, and yes I related it to my first post to try and build off of what I’d already written.


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