The Remapping of Our Brains


Reading has been a passion of mine since I was a child. I remember how easy it used to be for me to pick up a book, any book, and quickly get immersed in it. I remember how easy it was to dissect the author’s prose and diction, even when the content did not interest me. Nowadays, I cannot easily do those things. I find myself becoming distracted, bored, and unsatisfied before I even comprehend the words I am reading. And it is beginning to carry over into other aspects of my life as well. I feel that as I adapt and grow with the times (the need for instantaneous responses, the extreme technological growth) there are parts of me that are being left in the past. My focus may be one of them. While reading The Shallows, I came across a passage by Carr that embodies what I am experiencing. I struggle to formulate my thoughts on this matter into simple terms, but I think that Carr perfectly describes it. I attached a picture of the excerpt above.

A specific word Carr uses to describe this sensation is, “uncomfortable”. This particular choice of a word really resonates with me because I think it is the perfect way to capture this feeling. While I am aware that my mind and the way it works are changing, I am not sure whether positive or negative changes are occurring. Or maybe both are? As Carr goes on to mention, there are benefits and consequences of the ways our brains are continuing to develop with the advancement of technology. Positively, we have more freedom with our careers (like Carr’s ability freelance and create a blog), easier access to information, more time efficient ways to work, etc. Negatively, we are losing our soft skills. It is becoming harder and harder for people to write with pen and paper, to talk to each other face to face, or even on a phone call, and to sit down and read a book or an article. The word “uncomfortable” really strikes me because I am happy to acquire these new skills, but scared to lose my old ones; however, I am not sure where the balance between these two things lies, and that makes me uncomfortable.

I think that so far in the chapters we have read, Carr has done an excellent job of mapping out this transition within our brains and the effects it causes. He balances the pros and cons of the situation in a thoughtful manner, and encourages the reader to challenge and think about these ideas. He also explains how changes in the brain have been occurring like this since the beginning of time. Does that mean we should accept this change and not be bothered by this natural process, or are we evolving too fast for our own good? This is a question I don’t have an answer to, but it is something that raised a flag in my mind while reading The Shallows. Additionally, I wonder if the skills we lose are worth losing when we are able to gain achievements like this. As I read through the progression of technology that Carr laid out for us in these first few chapters, I always think the next invention is better than the one before it. However, I am curious if I will feel the same way in the future when I look back on the past. Maybe these worries that Carr and I feel about the remapping of our brains are only minor bumps in the road to technology that will cause our brains to think in ways that we never have before.