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Surprising Science

Computers: Boon or Bust?

“I don’t own a computer, have no idea how to work one,” Woody Allen told an interviewer recently. Author Jim Hold asks if those of us with computers are really better off?

Are computers the way to go? “There are skeptics who maintain that computers are having the opposite effect on us: they are making us less happy, and perhaps even stupider. Among the first to raise this possibility was the American literary critic Sven Birkerts. In his book The Gutenberg Elegies, Birkerts argued that the computer and other electronic media were destroying our capacity for ‘deep reading’. His writing students, thanks to their digital devices, had become mere skimmers and scanners and scrollers. They couldn’t lose themselves in a novel the way he could. This didn’t bode well, Birkerts thought, for the future of literary culture.”


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