The Atlantic Blames Google For Making Us All Dumb

Idiocracy.jpgWhenever we read The Atlantic, we feel like we’re reading Infinite Jest. The stories are well-written and well-reported, but damn are they long… and complicated. Turns out, our inability to hack through them might not be our fault.

In this month’s issue, Nicholas Carr argues — in an article we managed to get through — that Google is to blame. As we receive an increasingly high percentage of our information online, we are actually changing the way we read and process information. It’s an argument we’ve heard before, but Carr sums up the argument succinctly:

What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

But haven’t previous inventions changed the way we read as well?

Carr notes that people feared that the advent of the written word and the printing press would spawn this same type of “intellectual laziness,” and quotes NYU’s Clay Shirky who says, “Most of the arguments made against the printing press were correct, even prescient.” All is not lost, however, as “the doomsayers were unable to imagine the myriad blessings that the printed word would deliver,” Carr writes. We hope the same is true of the Internet revolution because Infinite Jest is gathering dust in our bookshelf and we don’t have any room for issues of The Atlantic.