The relationship between technological advances and the way that people process information is dynamic, with each affecting the evolution and practice of the other. While the effect of human thought on the development of technology is obvious, the effect of new technology on human cognition is more subtle and difficult to identify. In Nicholas Carr’s essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, he explores the effects of the digital revolution in technology on the way that people read, communicate, and think. Carr expresses his reservations about the way that the growing dependence on electronic media and forms of communication are reshaping the way that people absorb, analyze, and disseminate information (Carr 2008).
The potential effects of technological revolutions are usually questioned most rigorously by those who are living on the cusp of the change and are able to compare processes before and after the changes take place. Carr analyzes his own reading style, comparing the deep, extended reading sessions he was accustomed to before he began to regularly use the internet, to the shorter, frequently interrupted sessions that he practices now. He questions whether our brains have been reprogrammed to shorter concentration spans and a need for distraction. The great advantages of having massive amounts of information available almost instantaneously could be exacting a steep price on our ability to concentrate and think critically (Carr 2008).
Carr recognizes that resistance to, and anxiety about, technological change is a common phenomenon throughout human history. He describes Socrates’ apprehension that the advent of written language in ancient Greece would cause men to become both intellectually lazy and overly arrogant. While it is too early to tell what the long-term effects of the digital revolution will have on human cognition, it is not the first time that the human race has gone through this type of technological shift. The mostly likely result will be a mixed bag of positive and negative effects, with a gradual adaptation to the most efficient exploitation of the technology.