The Shallows

The immense complexity of the brain will forever remain a mystery. Yet, how the brain interacts with evolving technologies is something scientists, philosophers and technologists can observe and understand.

The greatest infiltration of the mind came in the form of the Net. As reading and learning has gone from books and scrolls to digital form, the ability for a human to sit in solitude without distraction for a long period of time has diminished greatly. Socrates warned against the ruin which would come from books itself; he felt the book itself would ruin the human ability to memorize, learn and remember that which could be outsourced to a book. Was he correct? According to Carr, deep learning – which is the enjoyable state of losing oneself in a text – is nearly gone in this generation.

The question is why.

The human brain as we knew it is not as we know it now. What the internet has done to our brains, and by extension our attention spans, is limited our ability to let go of continuous gratification. The feebleness of human attention has been exposed – and exploited- by what the Net offers, what it caters to, and how it does it. Whilst reading a book 20 years ago, one could let their mind transcend, their body remaining below while their thoughts explore the worlds above, below and in between. Nowadays, this would be a triumphant accomplishment allocated to the very few among us trained to focus our minds.

Granted, no sane person would disengage from the Net in order to refine the power of deep learning. The Net has changed the brain, but we do have the choice to utilize it for our greatest benefit. Constant interruptions through social media and news outlets on the Net is something of a choice which one may transcend through controlling instant gratification. The art of reading, the beauty of deep learning, very much does exist within the recesses of the mind and soul; the brain craves it.

Categories: Mind and Consciousness

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