Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When I was your age...

It's ironic of Nicholas Carr, to spend 9 pages expounding on the theory that the Internet and Google has caused a dramatic shift in our intellectual society. According to his theory, over the course of a few years we have devolved from deep, analytical readers and thinkers into information Jesus bugs1 waiting on our prescription of Ritalin to be refilled.

Really, Mr. Carr? 9 pages? That's 4,222 words devoted to the idea that we can no longer actively read more than 2 paragraphs. According to your theory I should have stopped reading not long after Mr. Bowman began pulling HAL's memory circuits. How were you, yourself, able to proofread the article?

Like Socrates before him Carr is, in his own words, shortsighted in his assessment of Google and the ubiquity of information on the Internet. Sure, Bruce Friedman (the pathologist from the University of Michigan Medical School) may not have the patience to read War and Peace any longer but he can search the entire text for his favorite quote on Google books2.

In the two years since Carr's article was published we have seen this information and more importantly, the tools used to publish this information used in amazing ways. Iranians used Twitter to protest elections in July of 2009 giving us a commoner's view of Iranian politics3. Haitians tweeted their location to relief workers and their stories to the world after the earthquake in 20104. Recently, open government maven, Julian Assange, has shocked U.S. domestic and foreign policy with the online publication of tens of thousands of pages of classified diplomatic cables. And as I write this, the Egyptian government has shut down its main Internet connection in an attempt to prevent citizens from using Twitter and Facebook to organize massive protests.

Through his mourning of the "good 'ole days" Carr makes the same mistake of his elder skeptics in ignoring the possibilities created by ubiquitous, easily accessible information produced by an ever diverse group of thinkers.


1Jesus bugs, also known as Water Striders, are small insects that walk on top of (or skim) the surface of water.





  1. Nice post. It is amazing how change can take so long before it is actually noticed.

  2. I love your first couple of paragraphs... that's exactly what I was thinking! There seemed to be an awful lot of rambling in that article. We did not need to learn about Nietzsche and his typewriter, for example.

  3. I completely agree with the other 2 comments here. Great opening paragraphs - you really caught my attention. Also, great picture. =)
    What I love is that you've given me something else to think about... While I think some of us rely to heavily on the internet, etc. and have become lazy, there are many instances where it has helped people and saved lives. For example, the line about Haiti - if I paid more attention to the news and focused on technology, I would've known that many people posted their locations and were eventually rescued. How wonderful this technology is! In a way, I feel like I've taken it for granted... what if I'm the one trapped in a collapsed building downtown or an epic blizzard like the one in Sarnia? I'd hope that my technology would help save my life.