Revolutionary Measures

It’s the internet, stupid

So the internet is making us stupid. That’s the conclusion that much of the media has leapt to after reading Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows. Carr argues that the multi-tasking and leaping around that the internet brings is changing how our brains operate and making it more difficult for us to focus on longer-term, more complex problems or even read books.

Cue much hand wringing and thundering Daily Mail-type editorials about how the end of the world is nigh.

Well, it isn’t (even if Summer does seem to be over) and here’s five reasons why:

1                    Homo Sapiens as a race has survived because our brains have the ability to change and adapt. So, what we needed as hunter-gatherers (cue tenuous photo of Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC), is different to what we need when writing fatuous blogs on a Friday afternoon

2                    Brains do change – and can change back. So, if the internet and computers were switched off tomorrow, civilisation would survive (even if Civilisation didn’t)

3                    Most people can balance different types of thought and activity. Brain surgeons happily play golf without it causing any problems – do we really think they’ll run out half way through an operation to check their iPhone?

4                    We are faced with more and more information, so we need to focus on what is immediately necessary. Hence in the Renaissance you could be a painter, poet, engineer and inventor a la Leonardo da Vinci much easier as the amount of known information was that much smaller. Now, that’s not a option (which is why I’ve not painted the Mona Lisa)

5                    Any society stratifies – so some people will merely cope with new technology, others will thrive and others will fail. The group that thrives is normally quite small, so a wide ranging survey (particularly amongst the angst-ridden chattering classes) is going to pick out the ‘failures’

So, all in all, carry on reading my blog. It won’t make you stupid.

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August 27, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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