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Random Thoughts

Nicholas Carr Says Google is Making Us Stupid


Nicholas Carr is one of the most outspoken and opinionated authors you'll ever come across.  Several years ago he was the enemy of IT-types everywhere when he asked the question Does IT Matter?  More recently he wrote an excellent book I reviewed here called The Big Switch.  I enjoy his work and was delighted when a Wiley colleague left a Carr article on my desk entitled Is Google Making Us Stupid?  How could I resist reading it last night?!

Carr's premise is that Google is making us lazy by encouraging more online surfing at the shallowest of levels.  Read a headline and move on.  Scan an article but don't read it thoroughly.  It's the sort of thing I'm guilty of 99% of the time I'm online.  Actually, what Carr talks about as a problem is exactly what Jeff Bezos refers to as "information  snacking" and an issue he hopes will be counterbalanced by the Kindle.

I love some of the metaphors Carr uses in this article:

Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words.  Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a JetSki.

...we risk turning into 'pancake people'--spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast netork of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.

Maybe that's why I've had such a strong desire to curl up with a good book lately!  On a related note, this all raises a couple of billion dollar questions: Can we construct a new "book model" to address this?  How do we evolve with these changing reading habits?


Anthony S. Policastro

Hi Joe,
I think Jeff Bezos is onto to something with Kindle because the e reader makes it so easy and convenient to obtain a book and read it. I use my Kindle to read at work books related to my industry when I have free time, then at night I switch to more relaxed reading - a novel by my favorite author.

However, the "information snacking" is addictive and you have to discipline yourself to stay away. I see it as a candy store with all your favorite edibles and you're allowed to eat every one. As you move through the store, you find that it is endless with more and more new candy appearing. You are so overwhelmed and excited about the snacking and finding new candy that you rarely stop to thoroughly enjoy one.
BTW: I was eating M&Ms while I wrote this - one of my favorites.

Stephen Tiano

I remember (mostly) taking the walk from 21st St., where I lived in Brooklyn, as a kid in the '60s, to the 9th St. branch o he NY Public Library. At least once a week. Once in a while, during really bad weather, we'd ride the bus.

I was into books. I went through every baseball player's biography that they had over the course of a coupla years. But it was the need to do research for school projects that drew me there to start with, after my mother initially introduced me to the concept when I was younger still.

And I remember noticing that I was a reader and that many of my friends never made it to the library because they had encyclopedias at home. The thought crossed my mind that if more and more homes bought into encyclopedias that'd eventually be the end of reading and learning unexpected things.

Didn't happen then. You think Google is enough to do it this time?


Great questions at the end. That's exactly the question I am trying to solve.

I think there can be many different models, but one thing must be common to be called as a new 'book' model. That is, it should promote deep (vs. shallow) thinking.

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