Is Google Making Us Stupid?
“Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bownam in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial “brain.” “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”
I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative of the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.
I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets, reading and writing emails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to pod-casts, or just tripping from link to link. […] For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind (Carr 91-92).
Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Samuel Cohen. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. 91-102. Print.
1. Who wrote this essay?
2. Is he an expert? How do you know?
3. What is the larger context for this essay?
4. How does the author feel about this context? Does the writer think technology is enhancing society? Why or why not?
5. What is the author’s purpose? How do you know?
6. Who is the author’s intended audience? How do you know?
7. What strategies does the author use to get his message across?
8. Are these strategies effective? Why or why not?
9. Was the author successful in reaching his goals? Why or why not?
a. Did he reach his intended audience?
b. Did he achieve his purpose?
c. Did his message get through to his audience?
d. Is he credible? Why or why not?
e. Does he understand the context of the society in which he is writing?