14 February 2012

Attention Spans Are a Terrible Thing to ... to Something ... I Can't Remember

We should use technology to push our minds to new breadth and new depth. Don't simply give up on the old technology (such as books), especially at the expense of the attention span. Technology should be used to learn about new areas in which to spend more time thinking deeply. But, online reading, online browsing will change our brains to the point that we will have trouble thinking deeply; our attention spans will be incapable of handling that sort of pressure.

What will happen as fewer and fewer books are read; what will happen as fewer and fewer teachers and professors actually require students to read the books assigned? Nicholas Carr interviewed several people for his book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains; people who were students, teachers, etc. One philosophy major stands out. He no longer reads actual books. How is that possible? Another interviewee states that he is no longer able to read War and Peace. (That may not be a fair example, because I know plenty of people who make that claim and it has nothing to do with attention span). For that person, Tolstoy's novel is too long and complex. That is disheartening. People are allowing themselves to be changed to such a degree, by reading online -- only online -- that they can no longer enjoy complex and tedious tasks. Their brains are changed. Literally.

Already, people are more impatient than they used to be, in general. (No, I don't have any statistics for that, it is a personal observation). Is that the kind of world we want to live in? A world filled with impatient people who are incapable of thinking deeply?

Think about it.... if you still can.

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