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?