Nicholas Carr’s article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” is not out to attack the Internet or any of the benefits it brings to us. As a writer, Carr makes it clear from the beginning that Google makes his work much easier. Information is everywhere and can be had in a matter of moments. Then, Carr also admits to surfing through the Internet when not working, and because there is simply so much to scan and take in. He never even questions the quality of the information, and because the supply is limitless. Moreover, there is the implication that the Internet has provided the same advantages to others. This is a communication system with universal effects, and many of them are valuable.
The bulk of the article, however, is not based on the benefits of the Internet. Instead, and while not demeaning the systems, Carr wonders about the long-term effects to the brain. He begins by noting how he is no longer able to concentrate on any piece of writing that is long, and he reports that many others are feeling the same effect. Focus only remains long enough to take in the immediate, and this leads the author to examine how systems and devices actually change the way we think. He is careful to not write about this in a purely negative way; he more investigates, and turns to history to support how human thought is connected to, or shaped by, the machines people use to convey thought.
For example, Carr records how Nietzsche’s work changed when he began using a typewriter. Complex thought gave way to shortened observations, and this ties to the author’s general concern that we are losing sight of what human intelligence actually is. It is not a matter of processing information, as the Google camp holds. It is more about complicated, instinctive, and often unknown ways of receiving and holding knowledge, and there is a real danger in translating this human process into a “filter.”
Carr does state that his concerns may be unnecessary, and he points to history again to show that any new technology creates a kind of panic. Socrates, he claims, saw writing as the end of human thinking because people would no longer need to hold ideas in their minds. At the same time, however, the thrust of Carr’s thinking goes to a warning. We are not machines, yet Google and the Internet are eroding thought processes that have been in place for thousands of years. Ultimately, then, and while Carr admits to the many advantages of the Internet and the Information Age, he is far more concerned that our minds are actually adapting to the machines and systems, and not for anyone’s real benefit.