The Shallows

I just finished reading Nicholas Carr's book, The Shallows, subtitled "What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains."

Carr is an excellent writer. One of those non-fiction writers in the league with people like Malcolm Gladwell and Dan Ariely who can teach and entertain at the same time.

Carr makes the point that the always-on distractedness of the digital age is changing the way we process and retain information. He presents a powerful scientific argument although, anyone thinking about it for a few minutes would most likely come to the same conclusion. The real question is whether we are better or worse off.

Carr highlights what the internet does to our cognitive processes -- in his view, more bad than good. The internet boosts our information reserves dramatically. In just seconds we can access information, cull out what we need, and move on. Not much thought process. Not even much retention. Have a need? Click, click, click. Fill the need. Kind of like putting gas in your car's tank. Swipe your credit card, push a button, and then in a few hundred miles you are on empty again.

Carr laments the loss of contemplation and meditation that goes with the process of concentrated, deep reading. The digital age does not allow for prolonged thought. Click, click, click. That's it, move on.

One of the greatest dangers we face as we automate the work of our minds, as we cede control over the flow of our thoughts and memories to a powerful electronic system ... a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity. It's not only deep thinking that requires a calm, attentive mind. It's also empathy and compassion. ... the more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctively human forms of empathy, compassion, and other emotions.

Carr is a beautiful writer. His word choice, his syntax, his sequencing... all great. I'm just not sure I got all his points as I flew threw his book -- speed reading so that I could get back to my e-mails and texts.

Jim Randel is the Founder of The Skinny On™ book series. See www.theskinnyon.com.