The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
Introduction To the Second Edition
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In a 2010 Pew Research survey of some 400 prominent thinkers, more than eighty percent agreed that “by 2020, people’s use of the Internet [will have] enhanced human intelligence; as people are allowed unprecedented access to more information, they become smarter and make better choices.” 1 The year 2020 has arrived. We’re not smarter. We’re not making better choices.
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When it comes to the quality of our thoughts and judgments, the amount of information a communication medium supplies is less important than the way the medium presents the information and the way, in turn, our minds take it in. The brain’s capacity is not unlimited. The passageway from perception to understanding is narrow. It takes patience and concentration to evaluate new information — to gauge its accuracy, to weigh its relevance and worth, to put it into context — and the Internet, by design, subverts patience and concentration. When the brain is overloaded by stimuli, as it usually is when we’re peering into a network - connected computer screen, attention splinters, thinking becomes superficial, and memory suffers. We become less reflective and more impulsive. Far from enhancing human intelligence, I argue, the Internet degrades it.
Prologue THE WATCHDOG AND THE THIEF
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“The medium is the message.” What’s been forgotten in our repetition of this enigmatic aphorism is that McLuhan was not just acknowledging, and celebrating, the transformative power of new communication technologies. He was also sounding a warning about the threat the power poses — and the risk of being oblivious to that threat.
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McLuhan understood that whenever a new medium comes along, people naturally get caught up in the information — the “content” — it carries.
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what McLuhan saw: that in the long run a medium’s content matters less than the medium itself in influencing how we think and act. As our window onto the world, and onto ourselves, a popular medium molds what we see and how we see it — and eventually, if we use it enough, it changes who we are, as individuals and as a society.
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The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.” McLuhan scoffed at the idea, chiding Sarnoff for speaking with “the voice of the current somnambulism.” 4 Every new medium, McLuhan understood, changes us. “Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot,” he wrote. The content of a medium is just “the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind.”
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The computer screen bulldozes our doubts with its bounties and conveniences. It is so much our servant that it would seem churlish to notice that it is also our master.
One HAL AND ME
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The Net has become my all - purpose medium,
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The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich and easily searched store of data are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded.
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But they come at a price. As McLuhan suggested, media aren’t just channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.
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Karp has come to believe that reading lots of short, linked snippets online is a more efficient way to expand his mind than reading “250 - page books,” though, he says, “we can’t yet recognize the superiority of this networked thinking process because we’re measuring it against our old linear thought process.”
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For some people, the very idea of reading a book has come to seem old - fashioned,
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“Digital immersion,” wrote the lead researcher, “has even affected the way they absorb information. They don’t necessarily read a page from left to right and from top to bottom. They might instead skip around, scanning for pertinent information of interest.”
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By choice or necessity, we’ve embraced the Net’s uniquely rapid - fire mode of collecting and dispensing information.
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What we’re trading away in return for the riches of the Net — and only a curmudgeon would refuse to see the riches — is what Karp calls “our old linear thought process.” Calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts — the faster, the better.
Two THE VITAL PATHS
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most biologists and neurologists continued to believe, as they had for hundreds of years, that the structure of the adult brain never changed.
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Once we hit our twenties, no new neurons were created, no new circuits forged.
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“There is evidence that the cells of our brains literally develop and grow bigger with use, and atrophy or waste away with disuse,”
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The brain’s plasticity is not limited to the somatosensory cortex, the area that governs our sense of touch. It’s universal. Virtually all of our neural circuits — whether they’re involved in feeling, seeing, hearing, moving, thinking, learning, perceiving, or remembering — are subject to change. The received wisdom is cast aside.
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The plasticity diminishes as we get older — brains do get stuck in their ways — but it never goes away. Our neurons are always breaking old connections and forming new ones, and brand - new nerve cells are always being created. “The brain,” observes Olds, “has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions.”
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Synaptic links can also weaken in response to experiences, again as a result of physiological and anatomical alterations.
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The plasticity of our synapses brings into harmony two philosophies of the mind that have for centuries stood in conflict: empiricism and rationalism.
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In the view of empiricists, like John Locke, the mind we are born with is a blank slate, a “tabula rasa.” What we know comes entirely through our experiences, through what we learn as we live. To put it into more familiar terms, we are products of nurture, not nature.
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In the view of rationalists, like Immanuel Kant, we are born with built - in mental “templates” that determine how we perceive and make sense of the world. All our experiences are filtered through these inborn templates. Nature predominates.
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The Aplysia experiments revealed, as Kandel reports, “that both views had merit — in fact they complemented each other.” Our genes “specify” many of “the connections among neurons — that is, which neurons form synaptic connections with which other neurons and when.” Those genetically determined connections form Kant’s innate templates, the basic architecture of the brain. But our experiences regulate the strength, or “long - term effectiveness,” of the connections, allowing, as Locke had argued, the ongoing reshaping of the mind and “the expression of new patterns of behavior.”
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The New York University neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux explains in his book Synaptic Self that nature and nurture “actually speak the same language. They both ultimately achieve their mental and behavioral effects by shaping the synaptic organization of the brain.”
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the cellular components do not form permanent structures or play rigid roles. They’re flexible. They change with experience, circumstance, and need. Some of the most extensive and remarkable changes take place in response to damage to the nervous system.
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Our brains are constantly changing in response to our experiences and our behavior, reworking their circuitry with “each sensory input, motor act, association, reward signal, action plan, or [shift of] awareness.” Neuroplasticity, argues Pascual - Leone, is one of the most important products of evolution, a trait that enables the nervous system “to escape the restrictions of its own genome and thus adapt to environmental pressures, physiologic changes, and experiences.”
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The genius of our brain’s construction is not that it contains a lot of hardwiring but that it doesn’t. Natural selection, writes the philosopher David Buller in Adapting Minds, his critique of evolutionary psychology, “has not designed a brain that consists of numerous prefabricated adaptations” but rather one that is able “to adapt to local environmental demands throughout the lifetime of an individual, and sometimes within a period of days, by forming specialized structures to deal with those demands.” 28 Evolution has given us a brain that can literally change its mind — over and over again.
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Our ways of thinking, perceiving, and acting, we now know, are not entirely determined by our genes. Nor are they entirely determined by our childhood experiences. We change them through the way we live — and, as Nietzsche sensed, through the tools we use.
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played a musical instrument. He found that the brain areas of the violinists were significantly larger than those of the nonmusicians.
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Playing a violin, a musical tool, had resulted in substantial physical changes in the brain. That was true even for the musicians who had first taken up their instruments as adults.
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In the late 1990s, a group of British researchers scanned the brains of sixteen London cab drivers
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they found that the taxi drivers’ posterior hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a key role in storing and manipulating spatial representations of a person’s surroundings, was much larger than normal.
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our thoughts can exert a physical influence on, or at least cause a physical reaction in, our brains. We become, neurologically, what we think.
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As particular circuits in our brain strengthen through the repetition of a physical or mental activity, they begin to transform that activity into a habit. The paradox of neuroplasticity, observes Doidge, is that, for all the mental flexibility it grants us, it can end up locking us into “rigid behaviors.”
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Once we’ve wired new circuitry in our brain, Doidge writes, “we long to keep it activated.”
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Plastic does not mean elastic, in other words. Our neural loops don’t snap back to their former state the way a rubber band does; they hold onto their changed state.
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In addition to being “the mechanism for development and learning,” plasticity can be “a cause of pathology.”
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from depression to obsessive - compulsive disorder to tinnitus. The more a sufferer concentrates on his symptoms, the deeper those symptoms are etched into his neural circuits. In the worst cases, the mind essentially trains itself to be sick.
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Experiments show that just as the brain can build new or stronger circuits through physical or mental practice, those circuits can weaken or dissolve with neglect. “If we stop exercising our mental skills,” writes Doidge, “we do not just forget them: the brain map space for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead.”
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“survival of the busiest.” 37 The mental skills we sacrifice may be as valuable, or even more valuable, than the ones we gain. When it comes to the quality of our thought, our neurons and synapses are entirely indifferent. The possibility of intellectual decay is inherent in the malleability of our brains.
Three TOOLS OF THE MIND
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Our intellectual maturation as individuals can be traced through the way we draw pictures, or maps, of our surroundings.
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We progress, in other words, from drawing what we see to drawing what we know.
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We progress from the infant’s egocentric, purely sensory perception of the world to the young adult’s more abstract and objective analysis of experience.
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What the map did for space — translate a natural phenomenon into an artificial and intellectual conception of that phenomenon — another technology, the mechanical clock, did for time.
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The personal clock became, as Landes writes, “an ever - visible, ever - audible companion and monitor.” By continually reminding its owner of “time used, time spent, time wasted, time lost,” it became both “prod and key to personal achievement and productivity.” The “personalization” of precisely measured time “was a major stimulus to the individualism that was an ever more salient aspect of Western civilization.”
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EVERY TECHNOLOGY IS an expression of human will. Through our tools, we seek to expand our power and control over our circumstances — over nature, over time and distance, over one another.
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Our technologies can be divided, roughly, into four categories,
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One set, which encompasses the plow, the darning needle, and the fighter jet, extends our physical strength, dexterity, or resilience.
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A second set, which includes the microscope, the amplifier, and the Geiger counter, extends the range or sensitivity of our senses.
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A third group, spanning such technologies as the reservoir, the birth control pill, and the genetically modified corn plant, enables us to reshape nature to better serve our needs or desires.
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The map and the clock belong to the fourth category, which might best be called, to borrow a term used in slightly different senses by the social anthropologist Jack Goody and the sociologist Daniel Bell, “intellectual technologies.” These include all the tools we use to extend or support our mental powers — to find and classify information, to formulate and articulate ideas, to share know - how and knowledge, to take measurements and perform calculations, to expand the capacity of our memory.
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it is our intellectual technologies that have the greatest and most lasting power over what and how we think.
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Every intellectual technology, to put it another way, embodies an intellectual ethic, a set of assumptions about how the human mind works or should work.
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Our essential role is to produce ever more sophisticated tools — to “fecundate” machines as bees fecundate plants — until technology has developed the capacity to reproduce itself on its own. At that point, we become dispensable.
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At the other end of the spectrum are the instrumentalists — the people who, like David Sarnoff, downplay the power of technology, believing tools to be neutral artifacts, entirely subservient to the conscious wishes of their users. Our instruments are the means we use to achieve our ends; they have no ends of their own. Instrumentalism is the most widely held view of technology, not least because it’s the view we would prefer to be true.
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The debate between determinists and instrumentalists is an illuminating one.
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strains belief to argue that we “chose” to use maps and clocks (as if we might have chosen not to). It’s even harder to accept that we “chose” the myriad side effects of those technologies, many of which, as we’ve seen, were entirely unanticipated when the technologies came into use.
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But there is one thing that determinists and instrumentalists can agree on: technological advances often mark turning points in history.
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We know that the basic form of the human brain hasn’t changed much in the last forty thousand years. 15 Evolution at the genetic level proceeds with exquisite slowness, at least when gauged by man’s conception of time. But we also know that the ways human beings think and act have changed almost beyond recognition through those millennia.
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The process of our mental and social adaptation to new intellectual technologies is reflected in, and reinforced by, the changing metaphors we use to portray and explain the workings of nature. Once maps had become common, people began to picture all sorts of natural and social relationships as cartographic, as a set of fixed, bounded arrangements in real or figurative space. We began to “map” our lives, our social spheres, even our ideas.
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THE MAP AND clock changed language indirectly, by suggesting new metaphors to describe natural phenomena. Other intellectual technologies change language more directly, and more deeply, by actually altering the way we speak and listen or read and write.
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In a purely oral culture, thinking is governed by the capacity of human memory. Knowledge is what you recall, and what you recall is limited to what you can hold in your mind. 28 Through the millennia of man’s preliterate history, language evolved to aid the storage of complex information in individual memory and to make it easy to exchange that information with others through speech.
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The oral world of our distant ancestors may well have had emotional and intuitive depths that we can no longer appreciate. McLuhan believed that preliterate peoples must have enjoyed a particularly intense “sensuous involvement” with the world. When we learned to read, he argued, we suffered a “considerable detachment from the feelings or emotional involvement that a nonliterate man or society would experience.”
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But intellectually, our ancestors’ oral culture was in many ways a shallower one than our own. The written word liberated knowledge from the bounds of individual memory and freed language from the rhythmical and formulaic structures required to support memorization and recitation. It opened to the mind broad new frontiers of thought and expression. “The achievements of the Western world, it is obvious, are testimony to the tremendous values of literacy,” McLuhan wrote.
Four THE DEEPENING PAGE
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Even as the technology of the book sped ahead, the legacy of the oral world continued to shape the way words on pages were written and read.
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no spaces separated the words in early writing. In the books inked by scribes, words ran together without any break across every line on every page, in what’s now referred to as scriptura continua.
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The lack of word separation reflected language’s origins in speech. When we talk, we don’t insert pauses between each word
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Reading was like working out a puzzle. The brain’s entire cortex, including the forward areas associated with problem solving and decision making, would have been buzzing with neural activity.
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The slow, cognitively intensive parsing of text made the reading of books laborious. It was also the reason no one, other than the odd case like Ambrose, read silently.
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By the thirteenth century, scriptura continua was largely obsolete, for Latin texts as well as those written in the vernacular.
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The emergence of word order standards sparked a revolution in the structure of language — one that, as Saenger notes, “was inherently antithetical to the ancient quest for metrical and rhythmical eloquence.”
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The visual cortex, for example, develops “a veritable collage” of neuron assemblies dedicated to recognizing, in a matter of milliseconds, “visual images of letters, letter patterns, and words.”
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Readers didn’t just become more efficient. They also became more attentive. To read a long book silently required an ability to concentrate intently over a long period of time,
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Neuroscientists have discovered primitive “bottom - up mechanisms” in our brains that, as the authors of a 2004 article in Current Biology put it, “operate on raw sensory input, rapidly and involuntarily shifting attention to salient visual features of potential importance.” 8 What draws our attention most of all is any hint of a change in our surroundings.
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as soon as “something in the environment changes, we need to take notice because it might mean danger — or opportunity.”
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“The ability to focus on a single task, relatively uninterrupted,”
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represents a “strange anomaly in the history of our psychological development.”
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was the technology of the book that made this “strange anomaly” in our psychological history possible. The brain of the book reader was more than a literate brain. It was a literary brain.
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The advances in book technology changed the personal experience of reading and writing. They also had social consequences. The broader culture began to mold itself, in ways both subtle and obvious, around the practice of silent book reading. The nature of education and scholarship changed, as universities began to stress private reading as an essential complement to classroom lectures.
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For centuries, the technology of writing had reflected, and reinforced, the intellectual ethic of the oral culture in which it arose.
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Now, writing began to take on, and to disseminate, a new intellectual ethic: the ethic of the book. The development of knowledge became an increasingly private act, with each reader creating, in his own mind, a personal synthesis of the ideas and information passed down through the writings of other thinkers. The sense of individualism strengthened.
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The conflict between the orator Socrates and the writer Plato had at last been decided — in Plato’s favor.
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Just as the miniaturization of the clock made everyone a timekeeper, so the miniaturization of the book helped weave book - reading into the fabric of everyday life. It was no longer just scholars and monks
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A virtuous cycle had been set in motion. The growing availability of books fired the public’s desire for literacy, and the expansion of literacy further stimulated the demand for books. The printing industry boomed. By the end of the fifteenth century, nearly 250 towns in Europe had print shops, and some 12 million volumes had already come off their presses.
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The literary mind, once confined to the cloisters of the monastery and the towers of the university, had become the general mind. The world, as Bacon recognized, had been remade.
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The vocabulary of the English language, once limited to just a few thousand words, expanded to upwards of a million words as books proliferated.
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One of the most important lessons we’ve learned from the study of neuroplasticity is that the mental capacities, the very neural circuits, we develop for one purpose can be put to other uses as well.
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“New thought came more readily to a brain that had already learned how to rearrange itself to read,”
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Books weren’t the only reason that human consciousness was transformed during the years following the invention of the letterpress — many other technologies and social and demographic trends played important roles — but books were at the very center of the change.
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we find ourselves today between two technological worlds.
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After 550 years, the printing press and its products are being pushed from the center of our intellectual life to its edges. The shift began during the middle years of the twentieth century, when we started devoting more and more of our time and attention to the cheap, copious, and endlessly entertaining products of the first wave of electric and electronic media: radio, cinema, phonograph, television.
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Now the mainstream is being diverted, quickly and decisively, into a new channel. The electronic revolution is approaching its culmination as the computer — desktop, laptop, handheld — becomes our constant companion and the Internet becomes our medium of choice for storing, processing, and sharing information in all forms, including text.
Five A MEDIUM OF THE MOST GENERAL NATURE
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machine of the most general nature” 4 — but Turing seems to have been the first to understand the digital computer’s limitless adaptability.
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What he could not have anticipated was the way his universal machine would, just a few decades after his death, become our universal medium.
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Because the different sorts of information distributed by traditional media — words, numbers, sounds, images, moving pictures — can all be translated into digital code, they can all be “computed.”
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the price of a typical computing task has dropped by 99.9 percent since the 1960s.
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The way the Web has progressed as a medium replays, with the velocity of a time - lapse film, the entire history of modern media.
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THE NET DIFFERS from most of the mass media it replaces in an obvious and very important way: it’s bidirectional. We can send messages through the network as well as receive them. That’s made the system all the more useful.
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It’s a personal broadcasting medium as well as a commercial one.
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It’s often assumed that the time we devote to the Net comes out of the time we would otherwise spend watching TV. But statistics suggest otherwise. Most studies of media activity indicate that as Net use has gone up, television viewing has either held steady or increased.
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The growth in our online time has, in other words, expanded the total amount of time we spend in front of screens.
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Once information is digitized, the boundaries between media dissolve. We replace our special - purpose tools with an all - purpose tool.
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the shift happens very quickly, following capitalism’s inexorable logic.
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“A NEW MEDIUM is never an addition to an old one,” wrote McLuhan in Understanding Media, “nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them.” 21 His observation rings particularly true today. Traditional media, even electronic ones, are being refashioned and repositioned as they go through the shift to online distribution. When the Net absorbs a medium, it re - creates that medium in its own image.
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Links don’t just point us to related or supplemental works; they propel us toward them. They encourage us to dip in and out of a series of texts rather than devote sustained attention to any one of them. Hyperlinks are designed to grab our attention.
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By combining many different kinds of information on a single screen, the multimedia Net further fragments content and disrupts our concentration
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Whenever we turn on our computer, we are plunged into an “ecosystem of interruption technologies,” as the blogger and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow terms it. 23
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We like to be able to find and be transported instantly to relevant data — without having to sort through lots of extraneous stuff. We like to be in touch with friends, family members, and colleagues. We like to feel connected — and we hate to feel disconnected. The Internet doesn’t change our intellectual habits against our will. But change them it does.
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AS PEOPLE’S MINDS become attuned to the crazy quilt of Web content, media companies have to adapt to the audience’s new expectations. Many producers are chopping up their products to fit the shorter attention spans of online consumers, as well as to raise their profiles on search engines.
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The Net has begun to alter the way we experience actual performances as well as the recordings of those performances.
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Even the experiences we have in the real world are coming to be mediated by networked computers.
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A particularly striking illustration of how the Net is reshaping our expectations about media can be seen in any library.
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Today’s library is very different. Internet access is rapidly becoming its most popular service.
Six THE VERY IMAGE OF A BOOK
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And what of the book itself? Of all popular media, it’s probably the one that has been most resistant to the Net’s influence.
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a device for reading, the book retains some compelling advantages over the computer. You can take a book to the beach without worrying about sand getting in its works. You can take it to bed without being nervous about it falling to the floor should you nod off. You can spill coffee on it. You can sit on it.
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The experience of reading tends to be better with a book too. Words stamped on a page in black ink are easier to read than words formed of pixels on a backlit screen. You can read a dozen or a hundred printed pages without suffering the eye fatigue that often results from even a brief stretch of online reading.
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When you’re finished with a book, you can use it to fill an empty space on your bookshelf — or lend it to a friend.
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recent years. The advantages of traditional books are not quite as clear - cut as they used to be. Thanks to high - resolution screens made of materials like Vizplex, a charged - particle film developed by the Massachusetts company E Ink, the clarity of digital text now almost rivals that of printed text.
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“the book’s migration to the digital realm would not be a simple matter of trading ink for pixels, but would likely change the way we read, write, and sell books in profound ways.”
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CHANGES IN READING style will also bring changes in writing style, as authors and their publishers adapt to readers’ new habits and expectations.
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A striking example of this process is already on display in Japan. In 2001, young Japanese women began composing stories on their mobile phones, as strings of text messages, and uploading them to a Web site,
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in 2009, when O’Reilly Media, an American publisher of technology books, brought out a book about Twitter that had been created with Microsoft’s PowerPoint presentation software.
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Simon & Schuster, has already begun publishing e - novels that have videos embedded in their virtual pages. The hybrids are known as “vooks.”
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As more readers come to discover books through online text searches, for example, authors will face growing pressures to tailor their words to search engines, the way bloggers and other Web writers routinely do today.
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Many observers believe it’s only a matter of time before social - networking functions are incorporated into digital readers, turning reading into something like a team sport.
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No doubt the connectivity and other features of e - books will bring new delights and diversions. We may even, as Kelly suggests, come to see digitization as a liberating act, a way of freeing text from the page. But the cost will be a further weakening, if not a final severing, of the intimate intellectual attachment between the lone writer and the lone reader.
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The practice of deep reading that became popular in the wake of Gutenberg’s invention, in which “the quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind,” will continue to fade, in all likelihood becoming the province of a small and dwindling elite. We will, in other words, revert to the historical norm.
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the words of books are extracted from the printed page and embedded in the computer’s “ecosystem of interruption technologies.”
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Fifty years ago, it would have been possible to make the case that we were still in the age of print. Today, it is not.
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The time has come, he said, for teachers and students alike to abandon the “linear, hierarchical” world of the book and enter the Web’s “world of ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity” — a world in which “the greatest skill” involves “discovering emergent meaning among contexts that are continually in flux.”
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In arguing that books are archaic and dispensable, Federman and Shirky provide the intellectual cover that allows thoughtful people to slip comfortably into the permanent state of distractedness that defines the online life.
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The distractions in our lives have been proliferating for a long time, but never has there been a medium that, like the Net, has been programmed to so widely scatter our attention and to do it so insistently.
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Multitasking has become so routine that most of us would find it intolerable if we had to go back to computers that could run only one program or open only one file at a time.
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the choices we have made, consciously or not, about how we use our computers, we have rejected the intellectual tradition of solitary, single - minded concentration, the ethic that the book bestowed on us. We have cast our lot with the juggler.
Seven THE JUGGLER’S BRAIN
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when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it’s possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards.
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One thing is very clear: if, knowing what we know today about the brain’s plasticity, you were to set out to invent a medium that would rewire our mental circuits as quickly and thoroughly as possible, you would probably end up designing something that looks and works a lot like the Internet. It’s not just that we tend to use the Net regularly, even obsessively. It’s that the Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli — repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive — that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions. With the exception of alphabets and number systems, the Net may well be the single most powerful mind - altering technology that has ever come into general use. At the very least, it’s the most powerful that has come along since the book.
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The Net engages all of our senses — except, so far, those of smell and taste — and it engages them simultaneously.
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The Net also provides a high - speed system for delivering responses and rewards — “positive reinforcements,” in psychological terms — which encourage the repetition of both physical and mental actions.
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The Net’s interactivity gives us powerful new tools for finding information, expressing ourselves, and conversing with others. It also turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment.
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What you see is a mind consumed with a medium. When we’re online, we’re often oblivious to everything else going on around us. The real world recedes as we process the flood of symbols and stimuli coming through our devices.
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teens and other young adults have a “terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.” 1 If they stop sending messages, they risk becoming invisible.
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the Net seizes our attention only to scatter it. We focus intensively on the medium itself, on the flickering screen, but we’re distracted by the medium’s rapid - fire delivery of competing messages and stimuli. Whenever and wherever we log on, the Net pre - sents us with an incredibly seductive blur. Human beings “want more information, more impressions, and more complexity,” writes Torkel Klingberg, the Swedish neuroscientist. We tend to “seek out situations that demand concurrent performance or situations in which [we] are overwhelmed with information.”
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returns us to our native state of bottom - up distractedness, while presenting us with far more distractions than our ancestors ever had to contend with.
Page 119 · 1917
Not all distractions are bad.
Page 119 · 1920
such breaks in our attention give our unconscious mind time to grapple with a problem, bringing to bear information and cognitive processes unavailable to conscious deliberation. We usually make better decisions, his experiments reveal, if we shift our attention away from a difficult mental challenge for a time.
Page 119 · 1922
But Dijksterhuis’s work also shows that our unconscious thought processes don’t engage with a problem until we’ve clearly and consciously defined the problem.
Page 119 · 1928
The Net’s cacophony of stimuli short - circuits both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from thinking either deeply or creatively. Our brains turn into simple signal - processing units, quickly shepherding information into consciousness and then back out again.
Page 120 · 1948
The daily use of computers, smartphones, search engines, and other such tools “stimulates brain cell alteration and neurotransmitter release, gradually strengthening new neural pathways in our brains while weakening old ones.”
Page 121 · 1967
Book readers have a lot of activity in regions associated with language, memory, and visual processing, but they don’t display much activity in the prefrontal regions associated with decision making and problem solving.
Page 122 · 1968
Experienced Net users, by contrast, display extensive activity across all those brain regions when they scan and search Web pages.
Page 122 · 1969
The good news here is that Web surfing, because it engages so many brain functions, may help keep older people’s minds sharp.
Page 122 · 1971
But the extensive activity in the brains of surfers also points to why deep reading and other acts of sustained concentration become so difficult online. The need to evaluate links and make related navigational choices, while also processing a multiplicity of fleeting sensory stimuli, requires constant mental coordination and decision making, distracting the brain from the work of interpreting text or other information.
Page 122 · 1977
As the executive functions of the prefrontal cortex kick in, our brains become not only exercised but overtaxed. In a very real way, the Web returns us to the time of scriptura continua, when reading was a cognitively strenuous act.
Page 122 · 1980
Our ability to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction remains largely disengaged.
Page 123 · 1990
Our brains, he explains, incorporate two very different kinds of memory: short - term and long - term.
Page 123 · 1993
One particular type of short - term memory, called working memory, plays an instrumental role in the transfer of information into long - term memory and hence in the creation of our personal store of knowledge.
Page 123 · 1997
If working memory is the mind’s scratch pad, then long - term memory is its filing system.
Page 124 · 2007
The depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory to long - term memory and weave it into conceptual schemas.
Page 124 · 2008
But the passage from working memory to long - term memory also forms the major bottleneck in our brain. Unlike long - term memory, which has a vast capacity, working memory is able to hold only a very small amount of information.
Page 124 · 2016
When we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by the pace of our reading.
Page 125 · 2018
With the Net, we face many information faucets, all going full blast.
Page 125 · 2019
We’re able to transfer only a small portion of the information to long - term memory, and what we do transfer is a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from one source.
Page 125 · 2021
The information flowing into our working memory at any given moment is called our “cognitive load.” When the load exceeds our mind’s ability to store and process the information — when the water overflows the thimble — we’re unable to retain the information or to draw connections with the information already stored in our long - term memory. We can’t translate the new information into schemas. Our ability to learn suffers, and our understanding remains shallow.
Page 125 · 2026
When our brain is overtaxed, we find “distractions more distracting.”
Page 125 · 2027
Experiments indicate that as we reach the limits of our working memory, it becomes harder to distinguish relevant information from irrelevant information, signal from noise. We become mindless consumers of data.
Page 125 · 2031
There are many possible sources of cognitive overload, but two of the most important, according to Sweller, are “extraneous problem - solving” and “divided attention.” Those also happen to be two of the central features of the Net as an informational medium.
Page 126 · 2035
Try reading a book while doing a crossword puzzle; that’s the intellectual environment of the Internet.
Page 126 · 2048
A 1989 study showed that readers of hypertext often ended up clicking distractedly “through pages instead of reading them carefully.”
Page 127 · 2058
people who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text peppered with links.
Page 129 · 2093
WEB COMBINES the technology of hypertext with the technology of multimedia to deliver what’s called “hypermedia.”
Page 129 · 2096
The more inputs, the better. But this assumption, long accepted without much evidence, has also been contradicted by research. The division of attention demanded by multimedia further strains our cognitive abilities, diminishing our learning and weakening our understanding. When it comes to supplying the mind with the stuff of thought, more can be less.
Page 131 · 2122
Supplying information in more than one form doesn’t always take a toll on understanding. As we all know from reading illustrated textbooks and manuals, pictures can help clarify and reinforce written explanations. Education researchers have also found that carefully designed presentations that combine audio and visual explanations or instructions can enhance students’ learning.
Page 132 · 2137
frequent interruptions scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory, and make us tense and anxious.
Page 132 · 2147
Navigating the Web requires a particularly intensive form of mental multitasking. In addition to flooding our working memory with information, the juggling imposes what brain scientists call “switching costs” on our cognition.
Page 133 · 2148
Every time we shift our attention, our brain has to reorient itself, further taxing our mental resources
Page 133 · 2150
“the brain takes time to change goals, remember the rules needed for the new task, and block out cognitive interference from the previous, still - vivid activity.”
Page 133 · 2158
learning facts and concepts will be worse if you learn them while you’re distracted,”
Page 133 · 2163
We want to be interrupted, because each interruption brings us a valuable piece of information. To turn off these alerts is to risk feeling out of touch, or even socially isolated.
Page 134 · 2166
We crave the new even when we know that “the new is more often trivial than essential.”
Page 134 · 2178
Nielsen found that hardly any of the participants read online text in a methodical, line - by - line way, as they’d typically read a page of text in a book. The vast majority skimmed the text quickly, their eyes skipping down the page in a pattern that resembled, roughly, the letter F. They’d start by glancing all the way across the first two or three lines of text. Then their eyes would drop down a bit, and they’d scan about halfway across a few more lines. Finally, they’d let their eyes cursorily drift a little farther down the left - hand side of the page.
Page 135 · 2183
“F,” wrote Nielsen, in summing up the findings for his clients, is “for fast. That’s how users read your precious content. In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website’s words in a pattern that’s very different from what you learned in school.”
Page 136 · 2197
browsing is a rapidly interactive activity.”
Page 136 · 2198
Nielsen wrote in 1997 after his first study of online reading. “How do users read on the web?” he asked then. His succinct answer: “They don’t.”
Page 136 · 2206
the Web, there is no such thing as leisurely browsing. We want to gather as much information as quickly as our eyes and fingers can move.
Page 138 · 2241
The ability to skim text is every bit as important as the ability to read deeply. What is different, and troubling, is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of reading.
Page 140 · 2267
As we practice browsing, surfing, scanning, and multitasking, our plastic brains may well become more facile at those tasks.
Page 140 · 2270
As the writer Sam Anderson put it in “In Defense of Distraction,” a 2009 article in New York magazine, “Our jobs depend on connectivity” and “our pleasure - cycles — no trivial matter — are increasingly tied to it.” The practical benefits of Web use are many, which is one of the main reasons we spend so much time online. “It’s too late,” argues Anderson, “to just retreat to a quieter time.”
Page 140 · 2276
the constant shifting of our attention when we’re online may make our brains more nimble when it comes to multitasking, but improving our ability to multitask actually hampers our ability to think deeply and creatively.
Page 141 · 2290
Our growing use of the Net and other screen - based technologies has led to the “widespread and sophisticated development of visual - spatial skills.” We can, for example, rotate objects in our minds better than we used to be able to. But our “new strengths in visual - spatial intelligence” go hand in hand with a weakening of our capacities for the kind of “deep processing” that underpins “mindful knowledge acquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination, and reflection.”
Page 141 · 2294
The Net is making us smarter, in other words, only if we define intelligence by the Net’s own standards. If we take a broader and more traditional view of intelligence — if we think about the depth of our thought rather than just its speed — we have to come to a different and considerably darker conclusion.
Page 141 · 2300
the heavy multitaskers were much more easily distracted by “irrelevant environmental stimuli,” had significantly less control over the contents of their working memory, and were in general much less able to maintain their concentration on a particular task.
Page 142 · 2302
Whereas the infrequent multitaskers exhibited relatively strong “top - down attentional control,” the habitual multitaskers showed “a greater tendency for bottom - up attentional control,” suggesting that “they may be sacrificing performance on the primary task to let in other sources of information.”
Page 142 · 2306
As we multitask online, he says, we are “training our brains to pay attention to the crap.” The consequences for our intellectual lives may prove “deadly.”
Page 142 · 2308
The mental functions that are losing the “survival of the busiest” brain cell battle are those that support calm, linear thought — the ones we use in traversing a lengthy narrative or an involved argument, the ones we draw on when we reflect on our experiences or contemplate an outward or inward phenomenon.
Page 142 · 2310
The winners are those functions that help us speedily locate, categorize, and assess disparate bits of information in a variety of forms, that let us maintain our mental bearings while being bombarded by stimuli.
Page 142 · 2312
These functions are, not coincidentally, very similar to the ones performed by computers, which are programmed for the high - speed transfer of data in and out of memory.
Page 147 · 2386
We’re not smarter than our parents or our parents’ parents. We’re just smart in different ways. And that influences not only how we see the world but also how we raise and educate our children. This social revolution in how we think about thinking explains why we’ve become ever more adept at working out the problems in the more abstract and visual sections of IQ tests while making little or no progress in expanding our personal knowledge, bolstering our basic academic skills, or improving our ability to communicate complicated ideas clearly. We’re trained, from infancy, to put things into categories, to solve puzzles, to think in terms of symbols in space.
Page 148 · 2392
But, as Flynn stresses, that doesn’t mean we have “better brains.” It just means we have different brains. 11
Eight THE CHURCH OF GOOGLE
Page 150 · 2412
Taylor’s system of measurement and optimization is still very much with us; it remains one of the underpinnings of industrial manufacturing. And now, thanks to the growing power that computer engineers and software coders wield over our intellectual and social lives, Taylor’s ethic is beginning to govern the realm of the mind as well.
Page 150 · 2417
Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters — the Googleplex — is the Internet’s high church, and the religion practiced inside its walls is Taylorism.
Page 150 · 2423
What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind.
Page 150 · 2424
Although the design of its Web pages may appear simple, even austere, each element has been subjected to exhaustive statistical and psychological research. Using a technique called “split A / B testing,”
Page 151 · 2435
“design has become much more of a science than an art. Because you can iterate so quickly, because you can measure so precisely, you can actually find small differences and mathematically learn which one is right.”
Page 151 · 2438
“You have to try and make words less human and more a piece of the machinery,” explains Mayer.
Page 151 · 2439
In his 1993 book Technopoly, Neil Postman distilled the main tenets of Taylor’s system of scientific management. Taylorism, he wrote, is founded on six assumptions: “that the primary, if not the only, goal of human labor and thought is efficiency; that technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgment; that in fact human judgment cannot be trusted, because it is plagued by laxity, ambiguity, and unnecessary complexity; that subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking; that what cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value; and that the affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts.”
Page 152 · 2445
Google doesn’t believe that the affairs of citizens are best guided by experts. It believes that those affairs are best guided by software algorithms
Page 152 · 2448
Google, says its CEO, is more than a mere business; it is a “moral force.” 12 The company’s much - publicized “mission” is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” 13 Fulfilling that mission, Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal in 2005, “will take, current estimate, 300 years.”
Page 156 · 2512
Google has succeeded in making the Internet a far more efficient informational medium.
Page 156 · 2520
But Google, as the supplier of the Web’s principal navigational tools, also shapes our relationship with the content that it serves up so efficiently and in such profusion.
Page 156 · 2522
The intellectual technologies it has pioneered promote the speedy, superficial skimming of information and discourage any deep, prolonged engagement with a single argument, idea, or narrative.
Page 156 · 2523
“Our goal,” says Irene Au, “is to get users in and out really quickly. All our design decisions are based on that strategy.” 21 Google’s profits are tied directly to the velocity of people’s information intake. The faster we surf across the surface of the Web — the more links we click and pages we view — the more opportunities Google gains to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements.
Page 157 · 2530
Google is, quite literally, in the business of distraction.
Page 157 · 2536
The history of the Web suggests that the velocity of data will only increase.
Page 158 · 2543
The greatest acceleration has come recently, with the rise of social networks
Page 158 · 2547
They’ve also placed a whole new emphasis on immediacy.
Page 158 · 2548
To be up to date requires the continual monitoring of message alerts.
Page 164 · 2646
support for a slightly less sweeping alternative. The debate over Google Book Search is illuminating for several reasons. It reveals how far we still have to go to adapt the spirit and letter of copyright law, particularly its fair - use provisions, to the digital age.
Page 164 · 2650
It also tells us much about Google’s high - flown ideals and the high - handed methods it sometimes uses to pursue them.
Page 164 · 2653
Most important of all, the controversy makes clear that the world’s books will be digitized — and that the effort is likely to proceed quickly.
Page 165 · 2661
But the inevitability of turning the pages of books into online images should not prevent us from considering the side effects. To make a book discoverable and searchable online is also to dismember it. The cohesion of its text, the linearity of its argument or narrative as it flows through scores of pages, is sacrificed. What that ancient Roman craftsman wove together when he created the first codex is unstitched. The quiet that was “part of the meaning” of the codex is sacrificed as well. Surrounding every page or snippet of text on Google Book Search is a welter of links, tools, tabs, and ads, each eagerly angling for a share of the reader’s fragmented attention.
Page 165 · 2676
for Google, the real value of a book is not as a self - contained literary work but as another pile of data to be mined. The great library that Google is rushing to create shouldn’t be confused with the libraries we’ve known up until now. It’s not a library of books. It’s a library of snippets.
Page 166 · 2682
With writing on the screen, we’re still able to decode text quickly — we read, if anything, faster than ever — but we’re no longer guided toward a deep, personally constructed understanding of the text’s connotations.
Page 166 · 2684
Instead, we’re hurried off toward another bit of related information, and then another, and another. The strip - mining of “relevant content” replaces the slow excavation of meaning.
Page 167 · 2705
The stress that Google and other Internet companies place on the efficiency of information exchange as the key to intellectual progress is nothing new. It’s been, at least since the start of the Industrial Revolution, a common theme in the history of the mind.
Page 168 · 2713
The development of a well - rounded mind requires both an ability to find and quickly parse a wide range of information and a capacity for open - ended reflection.
Page 168 · 2714
There needs to be time for efficient data collection and time for inefficient contemplation,
Page 168 · 2715
The problem today is that we’re losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we’re in perpetual locomotion.
Page 170 · 2751
By dramatically reducing the cost of creating, storing, and sharing information, computer networks have placed far more information within our reach than we ever had access to before. And the powerful tools for discovering, filtering, and distributing information developed by companies like Google ensure that we are forever inundated by information of immediate interest to us — and in quantities well beyond what our brains can handle.
Page 170 · 2756
The only way to cope is to increase our scanning and our skimming, to rely even more heavily on the wonderfully responsive machines that are the source of the problem.
Page 170 · 2760
“The best rule of reading will be a method from nature, and not a mechanical one,” wrote Emerson in his 1858 essay “Books.”
Page 172 · 2787
Page has from the start viewed Google as an embryonic form of artificial intelligence. “Artificial intelligence would be the ultimate version of Google,” he said in a 2000 interview,
Page 173 · 2811
“Everything that human beings are doing to make it easier to operate computer networks is at the same time, but for different reasons, making it easier for computer networks to operate human beings.” 59 So wrote George Dyson in Darwin among the Machines, his 1997
Page 176 · 2853
It’s also a fallacy to think that the physical brain and the thinking mind exist as separate layers in a precisely engineered “architecture.” The brain and the mind, the neuroplasticity pioneers have shown, are exquisitely intertwined, each shaping the other.
Page 176 · 2857
To create a computer model of the brain that would accurately simulate the mind would require the replication of “every level of the brain that affects and is affected by the mind.”
Nine SEARCH, MEMORY
Page 177 · 2871
People didn’t have to memorize everything anymore. They could look it up.
Page 178 · 2881
Books provide a supplement to memory, but they also, as Eco puts it, “challenge and improve memory; they do not narcotize it.”
Page 179 · 2897
“We should imitate bees,” Seneca wrote, “and we should keep in separate compartments whatever we have collected from our diverse reading, for things conserved separately keep better. Then, diligently applying all the resources of our native talent, we should mingle all the various nectars we have tasted, and then turn them into a single sweet substance, in such a way that, even if it is apparent where it originated, it appears quite different from what it was in its original state.”
Page 179 · 2902
Erasmus’s recommendation that every reader keep a notebook of memorable quotations was widely and enthusiastically followed. Such notebooks, which came to be called “commonplace books,” or just “commonplaces,”
Page 180 · 2917
The Net quickly came to be seen as a replacement for, rather than just a supplement to, personal memory.
Page 180 · 2923
David Brooks, the popular New York Times columnist, makes a similar point. “I had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more,” he writes, “but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less. It provides us with external cognitive servants — silicon memory systems, collaborative online filters, consumer preference algorithms and networked knowledge. We can burden these servants and liberate ourselves.”
Page 183 · 2961
William James to conclude, in 1890, that memories were of two kinds: “primary memories,” which evaporated from the mind soon after the event that inspired them, and “secondary memories,” which the brain could hold onto indefinitely.
Page 184 · 2974
it takes an hour or so for memories to become fixed, or “consolidated,” in the brain. Short - term memories don’t become long - term memories immediately, and the process of their consolidation is delicate. Any disruption, whether a jab to the head or a simple distraction, can sweep the nascent memories from the mind.
Page 184 · 2981
long - term memories are not just stronger forms of short - term memories. The two types of memory entail different biological processes.
Page 184 · 2982
Storing long - term memories requires the synthesis of new proteins. Storing short - term memories does not.
Page 184 · 2987
the more times an experience is repeated, the longer the memory of the experience lasts. Repetition encourages consolidation.
Page 184 · 2989
Not only did the concentration of neurotransmitters in synapses change, altering the strength of the existing connections between neurons, but the neurons grew entirely new synaptic terminals. The formation of long - term memories, in other words, involves not only biochemical changes but anatomical ones.
Page 185 · 2991
That explained, Kandel realized, why memory consolidation requires new proteins.
Page 185 · 2998
The fact that, even after a memory is forgotten, the number of synapses remains a bit higher than it had been originally helps explain why it’s easier to learn something a second time.
Page 185 · 3003
“Short - term memory produces a change in the function of the synapse, strengthening or weakening preexisting connections; long - term memory requires anatomical changes.”
Page 187 · 3034
thanks to the plasticity of our brains, our experiences continually shape our behavior and identity:
Page 187 · 3035
“The fact that a gene must be switched on to form long - term memory shows clearly that genes are not simply determinants of behavior but are also responsive to environmental stimulation, such as learning.”
Page 189 · 3060
hippocampus is essential to the consolidation of new explicit memories but that after a time many of those memories come to exist independently of the hippocampus.
Page 189 · 3064
The hippocampus provides an ideal holding place for new memories because its synapses are able to change very quickly.
Page 190 · 3078
When our sleep suffers, studies show, so, too, does our memory.
Page 191 · 3090
While an artificial brain absorbs information and immediately saves it in its memory, the human brain continues to process information long after it is received, and the quality of memories depends on how the information is processed.” 28 Biological memory is alive. Computer memory is not.
Page 192 · 3107
the brain cannot be full.” 31 Says Torkel Klingberg, “The amount of information that can be stored in long - term memory is virtually boundless.”
Page 192 · 3109
Evidence suggests, moreover, that as we build up our personal store of memories, our minds become sharper.
Page 193 · 3122
The Web has a very different effect. It places more pressure on our working memory, not only diverting resources from our higher reasoning faculties but obstructing the consolidation of long - term memories and the development of schemas.
Page 193 · 3125
The Web is a technology of forgetfulness.
Page 193 · 3126
The key to memory consolidation is attentiveness.
Page 193 · 3127
The sharper the attention, the sharper the memory.
Page 193 · 3130
If we’re unable to attend to the information in our working memory, the information lasts only as long as the neurons that hold it maintain their electric charge — a few seconds at best.
Page 194 · 3140
The influx of competing messages that we receive whenever we go online not only overloads our working memory; it makes it much harder for our frontal lobes to concentrate our attention on any one thing.
Page 194 · 3142
the more we use the Web, the more we train our brain to be distracted
Page 194 · 3143
That helps explain why many of us find it hard to concentrate even when we’re away from our computers. Our brains become adept at forgetting, inept at remembering.
Page 194 · 3149
Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think,” said the novelist David Foster Wallace
Ten A THING LIKE ME
Page 207 · 3336
What makes us most human, Weizenbaum had come to believe, is what is least computable about us — the connections between our mind and our body, the experiences that shape our memory and our thinking, our capacity for emotion and empathy.
Page 209 · 3368
Every tool imposes limitations even as it opens possibilities. The more we use it, the more we mold ourselves to its form and function.
Page 211 · 3408
When people came to rely on maps rather than their own bearings, they would have experienced a diminishment of the area of their hippocampus devoted to spatial representation. The numbing would have occurred deep in their neurons.
Page 213 · 3428
Electronic media “are so effective at altering the nervous system because they both work in similar ways and are basically compatible and easily linked.”
Page 213 · 3434
three highly active brain regions — one in the prefrontal cortex, one in the parietal cortex, and one at the intersection of the parietal and temporal cortices — are “specifically dedicated to the task of understanding the goings - on of other people’s minds.”
Page 213 · 3438
As we’ve entered the computer age, however, our talent for connecting with other minds has had an unintended consequence. The “chronic overactivity of those brain regions implicated in social thought” can, writes Mitchell, lead us to perceive minds where no minds exist, even in “inanimate objects.”
Page 213 · 3440
our brains naturally mimic the states of the other minds we interact with, whether those minds are real or imagined.
Page 213 · 3441
Such neural “mirroring” helps explain why we’re so quick to attribute human characteristics to our computers and computer characteristics to ourselves
Page 214 · 3449
our ability to learn can be severely compromised when our brains become overloaded with diverse stimuli online. More information can mean less knowledge.
Page 216 · 3474
The more that people depended on explicit guidance from software programs, the less engaged they were in the task and the less they ended up learning.
Page 216 · 3475
The findings indicate, van Nimwegen concluded, that as we “externalize” problem solving and other cognitive chores to our computers, we reduce our brain’s ability “to build stable knowledge structures” — schemas, in other words — that can later “be applied in new situations.”
Page 217 · 3495
the tools we use to sift information online influence our mental habits and frame our thinking.
Page 217 · 3502
A broadening of available information led, as Evans described it, to a “narrowing of science and scholarship.”
Page 218 · 3507
The quicker that scholars are able to “find prevailing opinion,” wrote Evans, the more likely they are “to follow it, leading to more citations referencing fewer articles.”
Page 220 · 3546
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, is the one that informs the fears of both the scientist Joseph Weizenbaum and the artist Richard Foreman: a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity.
Page 221 · 3559
the more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctively human forms of empathy, compassion, and other emotions.
Afterword to the Second Edition
Page 229 · 3678
research also revealed that our phones routinely disrupt our thinking even when we’re not using them, when they’re tucked away in a pocket or a purse.
Page 230 · 3697
As the phone’s proximity increased, brainpower decreased.
Page 234 · 3766
The Internet industry may have begun in idealism, but it’s now powered by a manipulative and very lucrative feedback loop.
Page 237 · 3821
When we turn to these devices, we generally learn and remember less from our experiences.
Page 237 · 3878
“misattribution” phenomenon, revealing that as people gather information online, they come to believe they’re smarter and more knowledgeable than they actually are.30 “The advent of the ‘information age’ seems to have created a generation of people who feel they know more than ever before,” Wegner and Ward concluded, even though “they may know ever less about the world around them.
Page 238 · 3899
A 2018 MIT study of message threads on Twitter, spanning more than 4.5 million tweets posted over ten years, found that fabricated or otherwise misleading stories are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than factual ones. While accurate stories rarely reach more than a thousand people, fake reports routinely reach tens of thousands.
Page 239 · 3923
When we constrict our capacity for reasoning and recall, or transfer those skills to a machine or a corporation, we sacrifice the ability to turn information into knowledge. We get the data but lose the meaning.