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223 of 252 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed Opportunity, July 2, 2010
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This review is from: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (Hardcover)
The Shallows is an expansion of Carr's 2007 article in The Atlantic, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" The question with a book of this derivation is always: does it achieve more than the article did, or is it just a puffed up excuse to gain from the notoriety of the original piece, now freely available on the Internet? To that question, I answer that it is indeed more than the original piece. It provides much greater depth of detail for the brain science research that centrally informs the book, and he also expands on the nature and history of deep reading, in a way that I (someone who is doing research in this field) think is quite deft and responsible. In a sense, the earlier magazine article was really a book masquerading as a magazine article, whereas these days most books are magazine articles masquerading as books.

That said, The Shallows is somewhat less than the original Atlantic article in that Carr, as he approaches the end, falls into the most predictable sort of romantic nostalgia. We're becoming machines. The machines are taking our souls away. The Internet is compromising our integrity as humans. Machines are colonizing our minds. Soon they will be more interesting than we are, just like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I've heard this all before! Certainly, a man as clever and as hard-working as Nicholas Carr could have thought a little harder.

(An aside: Perhaps he's proving his point that we've already lost our ability to think deeply. Or perhaps he's DISproving his point that going to country--Carr had to "get away from it all" to write this book--helps us to be contemplative whereas cities only distract us.)

We need people who care about the things books have done for us and continue to do for us who can *also* think beyond the nineteenth century. We can't leave this to the machine people. So, I end up in the middle on this book: 3 stars. The first 80% is good but it fails to deliver a "where we go from here..." Let the good parts inspire the rest of us to take up where Carr has left off.
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Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 12, 2010 11:37:57 AM PDT
Pedro Balili says:
This is a good and clever remarks. The machine people are coming, fast and furious. The book people are cautious and wondering why and/or why not? My comment: We really do not know where do we go from here? That is the mystery of life. We are awed by the many things happening around us in our age and time, but the redeeming factor is: We still ponder and ask... Aa-hmm, Aa-hmm, (I wonder why?).... Peter Balili

Posted on Nov 28, 2010 4:39:31 PM PST
frisco mama says:
I'm plodding through the unabridged audiobook; multitasking with walking and pulling weeds, and do not recommend the audio as many of us will find abundant use for skimming. I came to this with some prior knowledge and find plodding through ancient concerns about the effect of writing on memory, the breakthrough of movable type, the New England transcendentalists, and current research on neuroplasticity tedious.
The audio reader adds to annoyance with a tone suggesting that most sentences in the book are shocking revelations.
I'm not sure if the actual book would be worth reading, but could not recommend the unabridged audio. Try instead Clifford Stoll's "High Tech Heretic."

Posted on Oct 5, 2011 11:13:34 AM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Oct 31, 2011 8:41:58 PM PDT
Seems to me, "Serious," that you're making a big stretch to claim that Carr "falls into the most predictable sort of romantic nostalgia." As I read it, Carr (1) does not say "the machines are taking our souls away;" and (2) does not say "the machines are compromising our integrity as humans." That's your extrapolation. His is a lighter touch; if it implies anything about the soul, it is that the soul may have some unfortunate properties that are revealed by the electronic revolution. Also, I'm pretty sure that the suggestion about AI's becoming more interesting than we are was meant ironically.

As for "where do we go from here," the thrust of this book is that we cannot really choose, any more than the readers of print after Gutenberg could choose to think differently. The technology inevitably shapes our thinking, whether we will it or not. What this book offers is clarity about the direction we're going. That's all I expected of it, and it's plenty.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2011 12:37:57 PM PDT
So you found plodding through a work that bemoans the shrinking attention spans "tedious?" Do you know what irony is?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2011 8:05:13 AM PST
Having just finished listening to the unabridged audio book myself, I agree that the reader takes it very slowly, which at times can be helpful for absorbing new information, but is frustrating when one is ready to move on (an advantage to the printed work, which can be skimmed in areas that are not new. That said, I have found myself quoting ideas from the book (especially the author's admission that he had to go offline in order to concentrate enough to finish writing it) to a number of people, which means that I found it useful.
The irony, I suppose, comes from having multitasked while absorbing a book about concentration.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 26, 2012 9:38:46 AM PDT
I agree completely about the tediousness of it!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2012 5:52:37 PM PDT
T. Bill says:
Plodding through ANY book is tedious, no matter the topic. Maybe the author is just unable to write better than a PLODDING, TEDIOUS book. I bet the reviewer has no problem with a better book and that his attention span is simply challenged by this less than stellar one. So what?
Are we supposed to believe that everything written on papyrus was exceptional writing just because of the medium? Really?

Posted on May 12, 2013 9:41:22 AM PDT
The most dangerous aspect of all? That 8-second attention span that develops from childhood. Unless parents are extremely careful to engage their kids with true conversations, no amount of "learning" on the internet will create a competent human being. If you cannot listen, and listen carefully, you will miss details in situations that can destroy lives, yours and others'. Think, for example of medical care, how it is delivered now in "bytes," resulting only very rarely in physicians having the total clinical picture. Observation skills are 80% of effective nursing and medical care, and they are learned only through human interaction and activity beyond staring at a little screen and being entertained ad nausium.

Posted on May 13, 2013 12:52:54 PM PDT
So - let's call Carr's concerns "the most predictable sort of romantic nostalgia". And let's say you've "heard all this before". Does that make it wrong?
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