Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nicholas Carr, author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google, talks about piece in the latest Atlantic Monthly, Is Google Making Us Stupid?.


Nicholas Carr

Comments [50]

Connie Smith from Westchester

I recently heard the head of the "National Endowment of the Arts" (or was it "Humanities"?) making the same kind of observation,in fact,I think it was on this show. It is an ominous fact of contemporary life in the "developed" world.

Jul. 15 2008 02:27 PM
O from Forest Hills


So do you think you are being dumbed down by the Internet?

Jul. 15 2008 01:33 PM
O from Forest Hills

Sorry that your administrators don't stand behind you. My own favorite former teacher had problems with that at my CEP program I attended in Queens and a student was ousted for plagurizing off the Internet. I was glad that the person was kicked out because I used to bust my butt for 12-15 hours a day on a paper and I am an honest person who unfortunately is finding that honest people often finish last.

My saying about "admit nothing" is a funny joke my dad taught me.:) That's not how I really think but it is good for a laugh. Have to laugh to make the tough times better.

Jul. 15 2008 01:23 PM
TeachTruth from Queens

PS to "O" about detecting original work:

THEN, google the string of words into the Internet. If the student has cheated, you'll find a few sources that use the same ideas as articles in the Internet, or more likely, the same phrases verbatim.
You can see this process at work already. Take any topic that 4th through 10th graders might write on. You can just look up topics of interest, say, on ancient Egypt and lifestyle. You can see sites that students have created at some school and lo and behold, someone else has already written the exact same thing (same words) before.

Jul. 15 2008 01:21 PM
TeachTruth from Queens

It is quite easy to detect cheating in papers.
Type several of the words from the paper that you suspect is plagiarized. Particularly, select words that you suspect are above the student's vocabulary level.
You can quickly narrow the search by placing quotation marks before and after the string of words that you are searching.

One big problem is once you have challenged the student and are ready to lower the grade, administrators are ready to side with the student and thwart your disciplining of the student.

Jul. 15 2008 01:16 PM
O from Forest Hills

#36 Sorry I mean Teach Truth not TeachTech

Jul. 15 2008 12:31 PM
O from Forest Hills

Admit nothing, deny everything, demand proof, stand pat at 16, blame someone else, if you get caught then tell the truth and work out the best deal you can.


How can you know when someone cheats on the papers?
I have never heard of that, how do you know it isn't original work?

Jul. 15 2008 12:29 PM
susan monroe from Ossining,NY

I am an avid reader of the NYT, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harpers (like just about all your listeners). My observation is that perhaps there is simply too much to retain and nowhere to put it. I hate reading on line, prefer the feel of the page but find that while engaged and intrigued with the subject, I cannot recall the specifics when discussing it later. I find it upsetting as I am a luddite (based more on lack of computer savvy than disdain)and suggests it is due to 4 decades of information, useless and otherwise and no more storage. What does your panelist think?

Jul. 15 2008 12:09 PM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

I feel that the response directed towards the caller who mentioned the sheer amount of information that one has to take in was a bit cavalier. It's not true that people enjoy taking in so much information. We have to in order to have some kind of understanding our shrinking world and the fragile links between six billion peoples, their politics and their economies. The Internet makes this information more accessible (and cheaper!) to get. It also makes it more frustrating because the plethora of data online is even more overwhelming than it is on paper.

Jul. 15 2008 12:09 PM
Alex Roshuk, Esq. from Park Slope

From 2003 to 2006 I was a Wikipedia contributor and administrator (the group of approx. 1000 contributors who "control" the wiki) and I stopped contributing in Dec. 2006. One of the reasons I stopped was because individuals who were well educated or experts in their fields were being pushed aside by young volunteer editors who knew nothing about a subject. The way Wikipedia is edited it gives priority to
people who make short changes, not to discourse by experts or expert opinions. While Wikipedia is a good source to find a lot of information quickly my fear is that people use it as an authoritative source and are not really questioning the contact of Wikipedia even though we all know anyone can "edit" Wikipedia.

The really bad thing is that Google put Wikipedia very high up in search engine results making it very popular. People no longer even use Google as a research tool. It was originally a database search engine (that technology has been available since the 1980s) but now become the de facto source of information. Many users of the internet think that the internet is the repository of the world's knowledge. They no longer realize that the only information that is on the internet is what people put on it. This is causing critical thinking to suffer greatly.

Jul. 15 2008 12:00 PM
Dan from NYC

Humans were visual/verbal for most of their existence. Technology, through coming voice recognition technology will put us back there. We are in transition to a post literate age which will again emphasize "now" as the only thing that's important. Deep thinkers will revert to their roles as priests or shamans. Get used to it, the last hundred years was the aberration.

Jul. 15 2008 12:00 PM
Stephen D. from Brooklyn

Your guest would do well to return to his Plato: in the "Phaedrus," Socrates relates a story about an ancient king who rejects a new technology offered to his kingdom on the grounds that it would ruin his subjects' ability to sustain serious thought and conduct in-depth conversations.

That technology: writing.

Jul. 15 2008 11:59 AM
ch from Staten Island

It's a case of brain allocation. Do you have "speed-dial" saved numbers on your phone, and can't remember someone's phone number because you don't HAVE to remember it? The internet is like speed-dial: if you don't need to remember the info because it's available with a mouse-click, then why rehearse it into memory? We may not do it consciously, but our brain is continuously adapting to our behavior and needs.

Jul. 15 2008 11:58 AM
Natalia Levina from Manhattan

Let me play a devil's advocate. The way we read with technology is also varied. For example, Ebooks, which are books that can be read on electronic devices such as Palm Treo, does not allow for much skipping ahead and skimming because you get served one page at a time. Moreover, one can annotate easily in this medium, potentialy allowing for deeper reading. Similarly, Audiobooks, which is listenining to books on tape, on Ipod, does not easily facilitate skimming because you do control the flow of reading. As with most information technology, it is in the use of technology that human beings make choices that may deviate quite significantly from the common trend.

Jul. 15 2008 11:58 AM
TeachTruth from Queens

Yes, I've experienced the same as the teacher Liz:
students are impulsive.
And administrators compel us to adjust to this new thought pattern and behavior.

Jul. 15 2008 11:58 AM
clair from brooklyn, nyc

I remember the days when I was in elementary school and had to do research for school projects. I would look up the information in an encyclopaedia and then put it into my own words before turning it in. After having worked with schoolchildren since leaving college (in the past five years) I have to say that kids are doing a lot more cutting and pasting from the internet without even really paying attention to what they're handing in for their homework projects. It's very sad that parents enabling this, teachers are accepting the "work", and frankly, very scary on the whole...

Jul. 15 2008 11:57 AM
Erin from Manhattan

could your guest comment on how blogs/mass texts/social networking/comments pages encourage us to form and propagate immediate opinions?

Jul. 15 2008 11:57 AM
Betty Ann from UES

This is just the prophecy of Marshall McLuhan coming true. We nearing the Global Village, the media is the message!

Jul. 15 2008 11:57 AM
Polly from Manhattan

Does Mr. Carr have any evidence for this hypothesis? If so, I'd like to hear it.

Jul. 15 2008 11:57 AM
Tami from New Jersey

People didn't start reading en masse after the invention of the printing press. During the Middle ages (in Christian Europe) only priests knew how to read. At what point in history did the common folk start learning how to read? At what point did the expectation for universal literacy begin?

Jul. 15 2008 11:56 AM
rander pires from SP/Brazil

surfing on the internet , including using the google , it is a powerful tool for us to get information. It seems that the most important,
as always, is how to use the new media and how criticals we are. Didn't the TV cause the same discution some years ago ?

Jul. 15 2008 11:56 AM
ginger from st. louis

I am absolutely concerned about how much my already short attention span seems to be dwindling even further, seemingly due to the amount of time I spend online. I find that I often have 5-10 windows open at a time, and I keep bouncing around between different trains of thought.
As a graduate student, this has real implications for my ability to focus on things like critical reading of journal articles, or even just being able to sit down and write. I'll be honestly trying hard to concentrate and all of the sudden I will find myself off doing something else-- usually reading something online--sometimes related, sometimes not.

Jul. 15 2008 11:56 AM
Steven B. from New York, NY

Obtaining, learning, or wanting to know FACTS is different from thinking, interpreting and analyzing them. Compare multiple choice tests with essay exams. Who would you rather have run your company or country? Someone who scores well on the former? Or on the latter?

Jul. 15 2008 11:56 AM
Vinny from Upper West Side Lberal Middle Class Jewish Democrat in Manhattan

I think that the Television, traffic signs and bumperstickers are much more responsible for this apparent shortened attention span

Jul. 15 2008 11:56 AM
felipe from brooklyn

Internet behavior is a culmination of all the desire, convenience and consumerism which marketing has propagated on a social and intellectual level. It didn't start with the internet. Unfortunately this seems like the 'American' way, get what you want when YOU want it. Ok back to building my rocket.

Jul. 15 2008 11:56 AM
mk from rockaway

I think Mr. Carr's real problem is his determinist preconceptions. The internet will not make you stupid, you will.

Also, I would bet money that a serious scientific study would demonstrate the opposite: that regular use of the internet will IMPROVE your reading comprehension even as it applies to books.

Jul. 15 2008 11:55 AM
Robert from NYC

I long for a return to the 18th-19th century age of scholarship when it was all so new and fascinating to learn by concentrated and long study methods.

Jul. 15 2008 11:55 AM
Zach from Brooklyn

There are environmental implications to using so much paper to print books and newspapers. the Times online is as good, if not better, than the Times in hand. Still, when reading books, I find that my eyes prefer looking at the printed page, not on a screen.

Also, when I was 13, the age of Michelle's daughter, I was always told that internet sources are unreliable and biased. What I have learned is not that books are better, but that they can also be unreliable and biased.

Jul. 15 2008 11:55 AM
TeachTruth from Queens

Couldn't the reliance on googling in place of reading and research and the immersion of young males into electronic toys be major factors behind males' slip in educational performance?

Jul. 15 2008 11:55 AM
paul peacock from new york city

and so good for him. and recommend his book.

Jul. 15 2008 11:55 AM
AV from nyc

The article points out that Plato warned that books would make people stupid since knowledge would be distributed without wise teachers. The benefits of the internet and its ability to distribute information efficiently and to so many people far outweigh the problems in the same way. Also, is it possible to regain our ability to delve into long books, after being made stupid from the internet?

Jul. 15 2008 11:55 AM
paul peacock from new york city

c<65 = title frm mag eds.! art. about nick's own strug.

Jul. 15 2008 11:54 AM
D from NYC

I agree that the internet is making us stupid. It "dumbs down" all information, not unlike television...information we now "read" is in fact scanned. To prove this: just try writing an email to someone that is more than 2 lines long and see what is retained by the recipient.

Jul. 15 2008 11:54 AM

There was a study about people trying to do sustained work when they were stoned versus constantly being interrupted by text messages/emails. The stoned people were more effective then the text messaging people.

Jul. 15 2008 11:53 AM
M from Virginia

It is not just the consumer approach to this information which is "making us stupid," the clicking, and "shopping," and skimming, but the quality of the "product" is often question given the quantity of "products"--thus, "what" we are processing surely goes hand in hand with the "way" we are processing it.

Jul. 15 2008 11:53 AM
Robert from NYC

i think in a sense it's causing us to have ADD. We get the sound bites and bits that are enough and basta! We move on. Our concentration is diminishing.

Jul. 15 2008 11:52 AM
O from Forest Hills

I read the Internet everyday,, and listen to Brian everyday, best commentator! Go Brian!

but I still read a book every two days and work full time and write a novel of my own.

The Internet is not dumbing us down and it will not take the place of curling up with a book and tea.

We always have our imagination and no technology will take the place of the human mind.

Jul. 15 2008 11:52 AM
purdy from brewster

The research I've been doing on the internet led me to buy 6 books yesterday because I felt I needed more information, rather than biased snip-its. The internet can be a trail of bread crumbs if you use it correctly.

Jul. 15 2008 11:51 AM
rohan lewis from Manhattan

I just completed Atlas Shrugged last night and it took me 4 months because I could not read continuously for more that 30mins at a time

Jul. 15 2008 11:50 AM
O from Forest Hills

We live in an instant messaging society, instant gratification, zap a microwave and cook a quick meal, touch a man or woman and let's go make love, zap, fast, fast, quicker and quicker. Maybe our technology is just catching up to the fast speed of our minds.

We are reading when looking at the computer and that is engaging our minds. I wouldn't pick up a newspaper but enjoy reading on the computer.

I think this story doesn't have merit.

Jul. 15 2008 11:48 AM
hjs from 11211

reading is new to the common man, 100 years i would guess. the net gives one access to infomation. use it if u wish.

Jul. 15 2008 11:44 AM
Michelle from SoHo

David, I do understand the new way of research but I just want her to be aware of alternatives when the internet is not available. I am not that strict! I should state the she was willing to go through the process of turning on the computer, letting it boot up, then connecting to the internet taking 5 minutes or so, instead of just grabbing the actual dictionary to get the answer she required for the work. I was more concerned that she doesnt recognize any other way to research other than Google or other engines.

Jul. 15 2008 11:21 AM
chris o from new york city

For instance, would this brouhaha over the New Yorker cover happened 10 years ago? Or have we become stupid? Is that the internet? The 24 hour newscycle with many cable news stations?

At any rate, if the nation had to read the New Yorker, or even the Nation, we would be a lot less stupid as a people. Instead we look so childish reacting to its magazine cover. You have to think of George Carlin who was always challenging our sensitivities, and taboos, and fears, and saying the things that are "supposed to be" unspoken.

Jul. 15 2008 11:06 AM
seth from Long Island

Cable news hosts (O'Reilly, Hannity, Matthews, Scarborough, Dobbs, and Beck) are making us far dumber than Google. The Internet has its shortcomings, but cable news is dumbing us down to death.

Jul. 15 2008 10:48 AM
Anne from Manhattan

Is Google making us stupid? I dunno... Google it.

Jul. 15 2008 10:35 AM
paul peacock from new york city

i believe that authors need to tailor their work to the publications that will buy it and they need to do that in order to make enough money to buy bread while they write their books.

with that premise i believe nick's book is a good book and his article, unfortunately, is not, while i don't blame him for writing it and i hope he got good coin for it!

Jul. 15 2008 10:09 AM
David from East Village

Your daughter is right. There is no discernable reason to use a cumbersome dictionary when takes three seconds. As long as kids are taught which sites on the internet are legitimate for research purposes (I was, 7 years ago when I was 13), there is no reason to revert to the previous generation's research techniques.

Jul. 15 2008 10:06 AM
Michelle from SoHo

My 13 year old daughter freaks out when I push her to do research in books and not rely too heavily on Google or other instant online research engines. She HAS to look up definitions on even though there is a perfectly good dictionary on her desk that is collecting dust. I try to enforce the background research for school projects in encyclopedias and supplement with other "facts" from Google, but she just thinks I am a relic and pushing a dying way of research. While Google and other engines are helpful, I do not believe that they should be relied upon.

Jul. 15 2008 09:42 AM
Peter from Park Slope

Perhaps it is our acceptance of Google "facts" that is making us stupid. When I go to my Department of Education staff development meetings, presenting teachers (my peers) have recently cited "facts" as "information I found on Google." No one raises their hand to contest that such a citation is unprofessional and insufficient.

Google is fine for helping one find essential information such as peer reviewed research, but citing someone's blog on education is very different than citing a peer reviewed study found on Google.

Jul. 15 2008 09:21 AM
Hermatroid Gerantremeener from Ho Ho Kus, NJ

The idea that a person can no longer focus on long pieces of material as a result of web surfing, does not merit the title of his piece, "Is Google..." It should be "Is Web Surfing...."
Google, as he said, is not in the category of stupid induction, it's in the category of work saving. Does anyone pine for the days of card catalogs, waiting in periodical rooms and dealing with enthusiastic library staff?

Jul. 15 2008 09:07 AM

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