The Danger of Thinking the Way Technology Wants Us to Think
What scares me most is how we start to think the way the technology wants us to think.
Nicholas Carr writes on the social, economic, and business implications of technology. He is the author of the 2008 Wall Street Journal bestseller "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google," which is "widely considered to be the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement," according the Christian Science Monitor. His earlier book, "Does IT Matter?," published in 2004, "lays out the simple truths of the economics of information technology in a lucid way, with cogent examples and clear analysis," said The New York Times. His new book is "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains."
Carr has also written for many periodicals, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, The Financial Times, Die Zeit, The Futurist, and Advertising Age, and has been a columnist for The Guardian and The Industry Standard. His much-discussed essay "Is Google Making Us Stupid?," which appeared as the cover story of the Atlantic Monthly's Ideas issue in the summer of 2008, has been collected in three popular anthologies. Carr has written a personal blog, Rough Type, since 2005. He is a member of the Encyclopaedia Britannica's editorial board of advisors and is on the steering board of the World Economic Forum's cloud computing project.
Carr holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.A., in English and American literature and language, from Harvard University.
I think what we see over and over again with technology is that as it – as a new popular technology begins to be woven into society, woven into our personal lives ever more deeply, we not only change the way we behave or the way we think, but we change what we value about human beings, about ourselves. And what scares me is not just the changes in thinking that the internet I think is promoting, but the way we see signs that we are beginning to devalue the whole idea of solitary thought, or contemplative thought or very attentive thought. And you see this in just changing kind of mores or social norms.
You know a couple of years ago, if we were having a conversation and I pulled out my iPhone and you know, checked an incoming email or a text or something, we’d consider that rude. Or you do it in a meeting or whatever. Now it’s just becoming normal. That’s its becoming expected that you know, even when we’re talking with our spouse or our kids, we’re not going to get their full attention, we’re each going to be processing different streams of information simultaneously. And I think that shows how these – how quickly we can change not only our behavior, but our idea of how we should behave in response to technologies.
And as we do that I think, and I think this is actually part of a longer term shift in the way we think about thinking. I think we begin to believe that thinking is always just a matter of kind of rapid problem-solving and exchanging information in a very utilitarian conception of how we should use our mind. And what gets devalued is those kind of more contemplative, more solitary modes of thought that in the past anyway, were considered central to the experience of life, to the life of the mind certainly, and even to our social lives.
And so I think that’s what scares me most is that we become – we start to think the way the technology wants us to think.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.