Summary of The Shallows

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Business author Nicholas Carr enters Malcolm Gladwell territory with an insightful, far-reaching book of essays on how your brain works, how the Internet alters your perceptions and habits, and what the consequences of those alterations might be. Stretching from Aristotle to Google, Carr seeks to understand the magnitude of the change the Internet presents, and to gauge whether that change is for good or ill. He does not offer answers to his more provocative philosophical questions, preferring that the reader sort those out. But he frames these fascinating queries in detailed disquisitions on futurism, the creation of computing, the history of the written word and the evolution of science’s notions of the brain and how it functions. His relaxed writing style provides a companionable read, as if you were having a great conversation with a brilliant stranger. getAbstract recommends this enjoyable, nourishing book to everyone who’s ever wondered how working on a computer might be affecting their lives and their brains.

About the Author

Nicholas Carr, a former executive editor of Harvard Business Review, wrote The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google.



“The Dissolution of the Linear Mind”

Media prophet Marshall McLuhan, writing in 1964, detailed how “electric media” – radio, TV, telephones and movies – were breaking up people’s “linear minds,” ending forever the dominance of printed information.

The human brain uses patterns and work habits based on that dominance. When shifts in media occur, users tend to focus on “content,” the information those media provide. Few pay attention to a particular medium itself, or how using that medium changes habits and perception. Yet the medium always is more significant than the information it conveys.

The Internet provides an infinity of information. As you absorb that data, the Web alters the ways in which you think and take in knowledge. Some believe that the haphazard nature of the Internet renders books a thing of the past. Books offer a slower sense of time, deeper concentration and a more personalized experience. Such experiences produced the linear mind, the kind of thinking that moves consecutively from one idea to the next. Because of the Internet, that thought structure now seems dated.

When the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was going blind and ...

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