The Shallows by Nicholas Carr is all about how technology is causing our brains to change. That change is making it harder for us to engage with each other in ways we used to in the past. Carr seems to blame this all on our devices, but I don’t think that is very fair. We are the reason for these technological advances. Computers and phones wouldn’t keep advancing if we didn’t have such a reliance on them. Carr introduces this idea: “Even as our technologies become extensions of ourselves, we become extensions of our technologies”(Carr 209). Just as much as we need technology, technology needs us. Every year Apple comes out with a new phone because the last generation iPhone no longer fulfills our needs. Technology is only trying to keep up with our advancements.
Laptops, iPhone’s, and other technological devices have all become a part of our lives. I look at those types of devices as an extension of ourselves both physically and mentally. The image that goes along with this post represents how we are becoming one with our devices. I go everywhere with my phone in my hand, and if my phone is somewhere else I feel uncomfortable and like I’m missing something. Phones have become extensions of our physical bodies in the sense that we can never put them down. It’s as if they’re a part of our hands. Mentally, technology has also intertwined with who we are. Our devices hold so much information about our lives they are an extra part of our brains. My phone holds hundreds of songs that feels like a personal diary, thousands of photos that preserve my memories, and millions of texts that allow me to connect with people regardless of where they are. Technology may have consequences, but no one could live without it.
The second half of the book continues to address the idea that technology is changing who we are. Carr suggests that technology has become an extension of us just as we become an extension of our technologies. I agree with him in that sense, but if that’s true then why can Carr put so much blame on technology? He describes it as being reliant on us meaning technology couldn’t thrive without its consumer. Technology wouldn’t be advancing if it wasn’t for humans demanding and craving those new advancements. Carr’s blame for our problems on technology is not fair. We can’t blame technology because we can’t live without it.
Carr’s argument centered around the drawbacks of living so close with technology. So much so that I was thinking about the role of technology in our lives as a black and white problem. I was focused on whether the benefits of technology outweigh the impact it may have on us as people. I should have been thinking of an alternate way from which to view Carr’s argument. Technology is not so much a part of our society that we need to decide whether to accept or reject, it is the reality of the way we live our lives now. We should be treating technology as an inevitable human progression and embracing it as an extension of ourselves. Technology is embedded in our lives and we need to learn to wield it, despite generational differences in aptitude for tech. In the 21st century humans can be their own navigational system, personal shopper, entertainment, librarian, teacher, scribe, weatherperson, and pimp without having any of those skills or abilities. All we need to do is whip out our phones. In a way because we have these tools, goods, information, and services right at our fingertips the average person is already a Renaissance man (or woman) without even trying. With these assets at our fingertips basically from birth, it begs the question: Are we on the cusp of discovering more than we ever thought possible because of our connection with technology?
What spurred these thoughts were Carr’s words about the nature of human brain to adapt with advancements so much so these tools become an extension of our body. “When a carpenter picks up a hammer, the hammer becomes, so far as his brain is concerned, part of his hand. When a soldier raises a pair of binoculars to his face, his brain sees through a new set of eyes, adapting instantaneously to a very different field of view.”
He goes on to present Scott Frey’s words about our capacity as people to “blur the boundary” between the body and the instrument. This blur is certainly an uncomfortable change, (as most changes are) but I think the key to flourishing in this current state is to view technology as a springboard. By a springboard, I mean the beginning of a period of intellectual growth for our generation. We should stop trying to define the potential of technology as a positive or negative influence and utilize it for was it is: an inconceivable opportunity to grow.