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“Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr Essay

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Updated: Jul 30th, 2021

Introduction

We were at the meeting five years ago, and one question was posed, “Is electronic media likely to substitute the traditional media in a few years to come”? Everybody agreed that electronic media was first taking over from traditional sources of information. Only a few of us held that although electronic media is pushing print media out of business, people believe in seeing and touching, as such, print media will still have its way. After finding or looking for information on the Internet, people will still be perusing through books to confirm its truthfulness. This paper refutes the idea that electronic media reduces the ability of people to think and that it will substitute print media any time soon.

Summary

Nicholas Carr, in his article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” mainly discusses the basis and impact of the way the Internet affects or impacts our reading, reasoning, and writing habits as well as the way our brains are trying to adapt to the changing times in the media industry (Carr para. 3). Carr employs the use of specific examples, as well as statistics, to explain his standpoint even though many people do not agree with it. In the first part of the article, the author argues whether our ways of writing and reading are impacted by Google’s search engine. He states, “Having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial” (par. 1).

Nicholas Carr strongly criticizes not just Google, but also its highly advanced toolbars as he thinks that they will one time turn human beings into machines like creatures. “When we use the Internet, we become mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret the text and to make the rich mental connections….remains largely disengaged” (par. 9). Given that the issue brought up by the author is very important, he provides very detailed instances to prove his standpoint.

The information and statistics employed in this article are very specific and cautiously checked. For instance, from the start, the author comes with a range of conspicuous examples to trap the attention of readers. Then, he sneaks in his rational discussion to demonstrate that Google is actually making people, especially those who use the Internet, lazier, and more mechanical. He states, “It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense…, it almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense” (par. 8).

In the end, the author emphasizes that by relying on the Internet for information, we sacrifice the traditional culture that enhanced our thinking capacity. It is like sacrificing what is noble in our lives. “Internet is not the alphabet, and even if it may replace the printing media, it produces something that is different altogether…. deep reading promoted by a sequence of print media” (par. 33).

Responses

From the standpoint of Carr, the first thing to ponder or question is whether, as alleged in his article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” whether human beings are actually becoming more scattered and superficial in their thinking. Throughout his article, the author does not, in any way, celebrate the change in technology. He mainly sees change as a big loss. This, in fact, makes his criticism more superficial and completely misses out on the humanizing aspects of the Web. As a point of fact, it is always easy to criticize any new thing because we have not yet tested its positive sides. In addition, it is very difficult to understand the capabilities that new technology can bring to the life of humans.

In fact, what Carr describes is all about the worry of how we read and write. He must understand that the Net has actually brought a new style of reading. The way we listen to group members in a discussion without being changed into “machine-like” is similar to our reading on the Internet. The Internet is more like listening to a number of people talking. At the end of the day, we find ourselves not changed in any way by the net.

We still find ourselves in the natural state we were before. In fact, different from Carr’s insinuation, we find ourselves continually generating knowledge as our social contacts keep expanding on the Web. With the net, we have actually discovered novel ways of enjoying learning, particularly in a social environment. With this, the answer is “no”, Google is not and will never make us stupid. The only what online platform is actually doing is assisting us in reclaiming our lost learning legacy through a faster exchange of information and ideas in a social environment. Google is, in fact, shaping and making us smarter through the process of re-discovering new ways of learning.

The argument of Carr also fails to convince the reader, particularly when it comes to surfing the Web. Carr indicates that with the Internet, activities in the cognitive part of the brain have completely vanished. As he states, “the variations extend to regions of the brain, as well as those that govern such essential cognitive functions…… our use of the Net will be different from those woven by our reading of books and other printed works” (par. 10).

This is not based on science. In 2009, researchers at the University of California established that searches on the Internet result in enhanced activity in the prefrontal part of the brain, related to traditional reading style. In fact, it is this part of the brain that determines or controls skills such as deliberate analysis and selective attention. Carr indicates that all these skills have disappeared with the increased use of the Internet. As such, Google and the Web, in general, are not making us stupid, in fact, it is exercising and refreshing the parts of the brain that make people better in terms of reading, writing, and even thinking.

However, it must be recognized that this does not mean that the Internet has no side effects on those who use it. Every invention has a lot of good things and bad things on equal measure. Taking into account the Pavlov experiment of conditioned reflex, kids, who are continuously predisposed to binary numbers, take in large visual information, and a large area, that was previously allocated to object recognition, is taken up by visual recognition. Ultimately, literate humans are less introduced to natural details, an aspect that will not even enable them to read the written texts.

The article by Carr reminds me of Plato’s assertion or criticism of the art of writing when it was newly invented. In his dialog “Phaedrus”, he stated, “This invention of yours will lead to forgetfulness in the souls of learners, as they will not utilize their thinking capacities; they will rely and trust the externally drafted characters and fail remember anything…they will be people who fancy listening things that are said by other and fail to learn completely…” When the article is deeply analyzed, Carr seems to have quoted this text particularly when criticizing the print media. He stated, “The easy availability of written materials would result intellectual laziness….and weakening their minds… demean the work of intellectuals and spread falsehood” (par. 32).

In fact, these lines in his article weakened his line of thought more than what they were intended to deliver. They lay out a number of challenges associated with the Internet that Carr failed to specify in his argument.

In the end, the argument of Carr revolves around his strange outlook of the Web or Internet. That is, the author does not in anyway discuss or even mention varied types of Internet reading. Now, when Internet is real in our lives and not fictional, to a lesser scale, he should have discussed the likelihood of transferring media or some form of learning from the online setting to other place that he considers important. To illustrate this point, I have personally interacted with podcast. Some of the activities I engaged in were things like walking, exercising as well as using the computer. The logic or principle behind Podcast is ancient radio lessons which serve to prove that audio is essential in the learning process.

Works Cited

Carr, Nicholas. 2008. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Is Google Making Us Stupid?" by Nicholas Carr." July 30, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/is-google-making-us-stupid-by-nicholas-carr/.

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