Author Nicholas Carr in conversation with Google's Peter Norvig.
Introduction by INFORUM President Josh McHugh.
Carr writes: "Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski," in his Atlantic Monthly cover story, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"
He shares his theory on the Internet as the culprit against civilization's progress, making the case that the it has diminished our ability to think deeply.
A former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, Nicholas Carr writes and speaks on technology, business, and culture. His intriguing 2003 Harvard Business Review article "IT Doesn't Matter," was an instant sensation, setting the stage for the global debate on the strategic value of information technology in business. His 2004 book, Does IT Matter? : Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage, published by Harvard Business School Press, was a bestseller and kept the worldwide business community discussing the role of computers and IT in business. His 2008 book, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, examines the future of computing and its implications for business and society. The Wall Street Journal says The Big Switch is "destined to influence CEOs and the boards and investors that support them as companies grapple with the constant change of the digital age."
A prolific and nimble thought leader, Mr Carr has written more than a dozen articles and interviews for Harvard Business Review and writes regularly for the Financial Times, Strategy & Business and The Guardian. His articles have also appeared in the New York Times, MIT Sloan Management Review, Wired, Business 2.0, Boston Globe, Industry Standard, The Banker, Director, BusinessWeek Online as well as in his popular blog, Rough Type. He also edited The Digital Enterprise, a book of HBR writings on the Internet. Nick's newest book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, examines the intellectual and social consequences of the Internet. It has received unprecedented international acclaim and has been reviewed in all major news publications.
Mr Carr has served as a commentator on CNBC, CNN, and other networks and has been a featured speaker worldwide at industry, educational, and government forums. In Spring 2008 CIO Insight named Carr's Does IT Matter?, one of the all-time "Top 15 Most Groundbreaking Management Books" and Ziff Davis included him as one of only a handful of IT management thought leaders on their "100 Most Influential People in IT" list. In 2007 eWeek named him one of the 100 most influential people in IT and in 2005, Optimize magazine named Carr one of the leading thinkers on information technology. Earlier in his career, Carr was a principal at Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.A., in English literature, from Harvard University.
Peter Norvig is a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence and the Association for Computing Machinery, previously Director of Search Quality at Google.
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, asserts that the kind of intensive, repetitive activity people engage in online encourages a culture of short attention spans and easy distraction. "There's no reward for the more attentive modes of thought," says Carr.
Author Nicholas Carr responds to a question about the broader societal effects of a culture rewired with short attention spans and an inability to think deeply. "We face a culture that is flatter, and not as vibrant," says Carr.
Will the future be void of great works of art and rich culture?
Publicly accessible computer network connecting many smaller networks from around the world. It grew out of a U.S. Defense Department program called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), established in 1969 with connections between computers at the University of California at Los Angeles, Stanford Research Institute, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. ARPANET's purpose was to conduct research into computer networking in order to provide a secure and survivable communications system in case of war. As the network quickly expanded, academics and researchers in other fields began to use it as well. In 1971 the first program for sending e-mail over a distributed network was developed; by 1973, the year international connections to ARPANET were made (from Britain and Norway), e-mail represented most of the traffic on ARPANET. The 1970s also saw the development of mailing lists, newsgroups and bulletin-board systems, and the TCP/IP communications protocols, which were adopted as standard protocols for ARPANET in 198283, leading to the widespread use of the term Internet. In 1984 the domain name addressing system was introduced. In 1986 the National Science Foundation established the NSFNET, a distributed network of networks capable of handling far greater traffic, and within a year more than 10,000 hosts were connected to the Internet. In 1988 real-time conversation over the network became possible with the development of Internet Relay Chat protocols (seechat). In 1990 ARPANET ceased to exist, leaving behind the NSFNET, and the first commercial dial-up access to the Internet became available. In 1991 the World Wide Web was released to the public (via FTP). The Mosaic browser was released in 1993, and its popularity led to the proliferation of World Wide Web sites and users. In 1995 the NSFNET reverted to the role of a research network, leaving Internet traffic to be routed through network providers rather than NSF supercomputers. That year the Web became the most popular part of the Internet, surpassing the FTP protocols in traffic volume. By 1997 there were more than 10 million hosts on the Internet and more than 1 million registered domain names. Internet access can now be gained via radio signals, cable-television lines, satellites, and fibre-optic connections, though most traffic still uses a part of the public telecommunications (telephone) network. The Internet is widely regarded as a development of vast significance that will affect nearly every aspect of human culture and commerce in ways still only dimly discernible.
Tool for finding information, especially on the Internet or World Wide Web. Search engines are essentially massive databases that cover wide swaths of the Internet. Most consist of three parts: at least one program, called a spider, crawler, or bot, which crawls through the Internet gathering information; a database, which stores the gathered information; and a search tool, with which users search through the database by typing in keywords describing the information desired (usually at a Web site dedicated to the search engine). Increasingly, metasearch engines, which search a subset (usually 10 or so) of the huge number of search engines and then compile and index the results, are being used.
I felt like the moderator was a complete tool. Even if Carr sometimes made points I didn't agree with, I still felt myself siding with him just because of the unnecessarily combative nature of Google's "open-minded" Director of Research. Jeez.
I think there is something to what Carr is arguing here; at least, I've found the internet a pretty massive distraction, and that I can't engage deeply when reading online.
What I really wanted to comment, though, was how strikingly bad and almost embittered the interviewer/moderator seems. Notice how:literally every question is used to take a shot at Carr's thesis, more often than not very cheap shots (e.g., anecdotal examples-- pointing out that Carr was still able to write a book notwithstanding distractions, the he himself wrote a much longer book, that his friend's kid wrote a paper on Haiti, that he spent all this time looking up a footnote when it could have been hyperlinked etc.) Not one question where Carr is asked to simply expand on his position rather than fend off a cheap shot. Even when Carr successfully parries one of these cheap objections, the moderator kind of hums and haws, saying, 'well...I'm not convinced'. Embarrassing.
I think what Mr Carr has been saying is completely valid. I doubt everyone actually understood what Mr Carr is suggesting. It is not that there is useful information online, but that this useful information is littered with distractions that reduce the mind's ability for deep thought. And that over time and as a society we risk significant neurological effects, albeit it to those who persist upon such mediums.
The art of deep thought is different to just knowing some topic area, rather it is the ability to comprehend a subject with the highest of knowledge. The internet as it stands now overall, encourages people to move to another subject area, or to not allow the cognition to focus on a single subject enough to grasp its concept in its entirety.
I think Mr Carr needs to revisit his thesis on certain area though, such as how technology is being used tactfully by users, such as professors and students - whose intentions are to maximise knowledge and understanding. I know from personal experience that when studying for an exam, I would use the internet to give me a basic understanding of certain topics, but rely mostly on books and journals and my desk (secluded from the world) for the bulk of my studies.
I think everyone through trial and error and by their desire to excel would realise the benefits of such a tactical method. Therefore with this, Mr Carr's general thesis may be true to an extent, but that it should include how within this increase and prevalence of technology, one is able to work conducively to maintain the art of deep thought.
The study that he alluded to, that suggests children who spend more time online did worse in mathematics is completely true and can be seen in everyday life. Other studies also suggest that children who love to read books, and who continue to read books to their adulthood tend to be on average "cleverer" or attain a higher IQ level than those that do not.
So it can be said that Mr Carr's thesis is completely valid, thus the question then becomes of "how" to use technology for the betterment of human intelligence and not for it to be counter productive.
I suggest that people take Google's view with a pinch of salt, as Google's job is to make money, even if it means they pander and direct their services to the lowers impulses of the human mind.
so we can reach to info that are not collected within a research or a book thanks to the internet. the problem is that we will not absorb the technique of writing a cohesive body of information. In addition , internet surfing allows us to collect information with out focusing on the logical basis of such information.
Mr. Carr has chosen to focus on the use of Internet for Facebook and instant messaging (though even there I think cell phones are far more distracting than the Internet). What about those of us who actually use the Internet for educational purposes? I've spent far more time on Wikipedia than on Facebook, not to mention all the scientific books and articles I've read on the Internet that I never would have read had it not been for the Internet...
Here's an interesting recent study that contradicts his "adverse neural effects" argument:
I agreed with the moderator's comments. You can use the internet in a shallow distracted way being constantly interrupted and merely skimming or playing games, but you don't need to do so. I love the internet because can dig deeper on topics, learn from people from all over the world, listen to university lectures or talks from world leaders, look up facts and news and opens up the world and informational options. I've lived with no internet and in comparison it sucked to the opportunities available now. Turn off those alerts, focus, skim for interests then dig deeper.
I think those who chose to not dig deep before the internet are merely extending that to the internet, but being shallow or not isn't inherent in the internet itself. One can ignore a phone or door bell ringing, as well as an email alert. So no difference, if you make a choice to pay attention or be distracted.
The great thing is one has the ability to have so much information, if you choose. Sometimes it is just as much fun to watch kitten videos though. ;-)
Totally disagree. The dissemination pool has simply widened, due to easy and relatively common access to each other's externalisations. Why cant this be seen as an evolution of culture, rather than a detrimental 'direction'?
He's also making a very vague, sweeping statement by assuming that internet users are not capable of contemplative thought processes. Kinda reminds me of Walter Benjamin with his 'works of art possessing an aura' drivel.
Maybe he's an elitist and don't want the proletariat having access to literature and shit, maybe I shouldn't talk in an abstract?