‘The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains’ by Nicholas Carr

I have been very concerned in recent years about our diminishing attention spans and tried to summarize my worry in my quote: ‘As our problems grow more complex, our attention span diminishes‘. Now Nicholas Carr has written an excellent book ‘The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains’ that only serves to increase my worries on this issue.

I read this book in more or less one or two sittings, which suggests that my attention span and ability to immerse myself deep in the linear, hypertext free, uninterrupted by email alerts and my ability to remember stuff without a laptop crutch, is undiminished. This is a very well written book, interesting, well backed by extensive reading and discussion of emerging neuroscience on brain plasticity. And of course, because our brains are proving to be so plastic, the internet is really messing with our ability to be wise: to really think things through in depth, aided by books which are not just twitters of information, pixels, but whole bloody architectures of connected, worked through thought to engage with and develop our own architectures of thought out of the contest.

So I strongly recommend both this book and also the practice of periods in the net-free wilderness for some hours a day, some days a week, some weeks a year. Research suggests that without interruption, you will find your attention span starts to recover, your ability to think deeply focused on one subject recovers too. Try it.

And the author popped in a great Wallace Stevens poem that I have previously posted in this context and include because it captures his message obliquely but oh so well:

The House was Quiet and the World was Calm:

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there. 

This is Nicholas Carr:


About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict Book Reviews, Conflict Poetry, Neuro-science of conflict, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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