The Shallows, Nicholas Carr

Title: The Shallows
Author: Nicholas Carr
Link: Goodreads

Start: 27 October 2020
End: 8 November 2020


The book starts with a good introduction of how the internet is potentially dumbing people down. For instance, it is now:

  • Harder to concentrate
  • Harder to focus and read a complete article whilst absorbing the content
  • Harder to dedicate time to anything
  • Harder to not be overwhelmed by a couple of paragraphs (or more)

The book turns a little to anatomy and history, explaining how the brain works and how information is captured. Went into the history of how the alphabet came to be and the evolution of books. It sounds like when people started reading books they were completely immersed and brought into the book whereas now we are distracted by any single thing, no matter how small.

An interesting point that struck me was that when we surf the internet, our mind is going at 100 miles per hour and although we are consuming a lot more information, nothing is being retained. It is a bit like a bottleneck, we can consume as much as we want but the process of bringing what we see from short term memory to long term memory gets overwhelmed and so after a while there is overflow and everything stops. There is also the issue of easily being distracted, and in a world where we are constantly connected, it is so easy for that notification to take our focus away. We need to be able to take back control and Cal Newport explains this well in Digital Minimalism.

When we have a steady flow of information, our mind can retain much more than if there is an abundance of data being fired at us from all angles. It is important to be able to switch off and focus our minds. There is a lot of information out there which is enriching our lives, but at the same time, it is becoming a burden as there is too much out there.

Several studies have shown that people retain a greater amount of information than reading on the web when reading from a book. The links and distractions mean that you are not actively focusing on what you are reading but jumping from one place to the next. I can absolutely relate to this – try reading a word document that has been printed instead of on the screen. Reading words from paper and following them with a pen or finger is a completely different experience.

I have to admit that I used to print absolutely everything as felt more comfortable proofreading text on paper rather than the screen. Since lockdown and then Covid-19 pandemic, I have accustomed to being more comfortable with reading material on the computer.

Ending of the book was quite interesting, in that we need to find inner peace and life together with technology and not let it run our lives. We need to find the right balance and not let the Google World dumb us down.

We are sometimes too reliant on technology and it is making us more a bit dumber each moment.