Carr and Shirkey are locked in an endless “moot point” struggle. We should all commend them, because someone has to do it for the rest of us. Ultimately, there are no definitive answers to the debate, but we should all be aware that the debate exists. The idea that our society could potentially be suffering from a lack of deep thinking, induced by the “unfocused internet,” is something we should all take time to ponder.
Why does the internet seem so scary to some people? Is it more or less scary than any other widespread technological change? I seem to remember hearing about similar critiques to radio and television. When they were introduced, each lead to a widespread cultural change. And everything turned out fine…right?
The internet is having a similar effect. We’ve experienced this change in much the same way our grandparents experienced the TV boom, or our great great grandparents experienced the telephone boom. When a new communication technology is introduced, a shockwave of expanded human knowledge ripples through the fabric of society. Each one is different, and each one has a generation of scholars and thinkers who dig deep and help the rest of us understand what is happening. Carr and Shirkey are two of our era’s thinkers.
But with this debate they’re concerned with the way our thinking has changed. The instant acces to information on the web certainly has implications for the way we store and process information. But is this simply the same debate that occurred with the telephone, the radio and TV? Each one of these technologies has changed the way we access (and process) information. The difference with the internet, I think, is the fact that the information superhighway is a real “superhighway” of information. One can encounter much more information while surfing the web than they could while watching a TV broadcast in the same amount of time. I mean, we’ve all heard the adage of an issue of the New York times has more information than someone living in the 1800’s would have encountered in their entire life. Information is crack, and we love crack. I think. Bad analogy.
Carr is astute to offer his observations on the matter. He’s noticing a trend that has serious implications. He, like the rest of us, is living in a time where humans are encountering a lot of things for the first time. We need people like him to keep us aware of the possible implications of our new found love potion. (Strike two on analogies). But Shirkey is the flip-side to his coin. I like Shirkey’s opinion better, probably because I hope the food is really super food: the nourishing blend of nutrients our species really needs to reach it’s potential. (Base hit?). Shirkey is optimistic. And we can proceed optimistically if we keep the advice of both of these thinkers in our thoughts.