April 25, 2012
Is The Internet Rewiring Our Brains?
|Every new invention, from the mobile cannon to movable type, has left its mark on humankind. The current technology impacting people on a worldwide scale is the Internet, and we are just beginning to understand its impact on our daily lives. Potentially the Internet may be such a profound technology that it will even change the way our neurological connections are made.|
Citing how if we were to go back in time we would find that the people in the past would find our technology (if we could continue to power, and connect it) would be like magic to people. The internet, especially finds Smith, is the technology that we use the most nowadays, as our mobile devices, laptop computers and increasingly everything else is being plugged in.
In the book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr cites studies which prove how specific neurological pathways of our brains have already been rewired by the Internet. Carr, who once famously asked, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" poses the idea Internet reading is, by its nature, a distracted form of reading, and concentrated long-form reading where one becomes fully engaged in a novel or piece of non-fiction accesses a different part of the brain.
Smith wonders, if our ability to deeply concentrate has been reduced, by reading in the form of scanning, following links, and simply being unable to choose which article or website is the correct one for us, does it mean that over the brief life-span of the Internet it has already changed the way we think?
Carr, wrote of this phenomenon too, in his Atlantic article:
Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.Moreover, with exponential growth of technology, the power and impact of the internet will increasingly change our behaviours, actions and the way we live. Artificial intelligence is already a huge force in our day-to-day lives, and with companies like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) introducing programs like Siri, accessibility to nearly any tidbit of information requires less processing by our own brains. Conceivably the neurological changes that Carr and Smith describe will increase as exponentially as the technology causing them.
Concluding his piece, Smith writes:
Rewiring our minds is one thing, but allowing us to choose how we want them rewired is up to each one of us. The near future poses many questions about this new technology: Will the Internet continue to expand and develop without major restrictions (like those already imposed upon it by repressive regimes), and become a safe space for artists, social change thinkers and activists, and proponents of free thought around the planet? Is the future of the Internet to eventually become just an evolving mega-store and online shopping mall? Will countries and borders become more fluid as the Internet age takes us deeper into the twenty-first century? Connectivity and reinvention are intertwined, and an online world incorporating freedom of thought and an open, honest exchange of ideas is essential for solving the global challenges we face.
SOURCE Russel C. Smith, "Rewiring Humanity: How Our Minds Have Been Reinvented by the Internet"
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Tags: aapl, Apple, brains, exponential, internet, internet of things, mind, neuroscience, Russel C. Smith, singularity
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