Reading Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows was an interesting experience, if only because the book does an excellent job of arguing why it shouldn’t exist.
Carr has a simple message. I’ve rephrased it here in 80 words.
“The brain adapts and changes in response to new media. Clocks, books, and calculators changed the way we think, and now the internet is changing us again. This change is good and bad; we become much better at quickly gathering information and multitasking, but we become less able to deep-read long articles or novels, and rely more on the computer rather than learning problem-solving skills. This is okay, but we should at least be aware of what we’re giving up.”
Books are more than 80 words, however, and The Shallows stretches on for 250 pages, reiterating this message and exploring it from different angles. It discusses how savvy internet-users flit quickly between webpages and content, scanning for salient words and points then moving on to the next bit of content. After reading The Shallows, that approach definitely seems more appealing. I don’t feel that I learned much more from spending days reading this 250 page book than I would have learned from spending five minutes reading and contemplating a 250 word article.