New page on confession

A new page has been added to the list of available pages in our right-hand sidebar: it contains a set of audio files derived from a talk I gave on the sacrament of confession some time ago. I hope it will be useful!

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Every once in a while the Atlantic Monthly comes out with a serious article that is worth reading, even if it is pretty long.  Nicolas Carr has put out a long, dense piece about the impact of Google on how our brains are now humming along. I’m sure many people have seen this piece pop up in their email browser, scrolled down and saw the length (six pages), did a quick take and then deleted it.  And that’s the point of the article: Google does this to us.  Here’s a clip of what he means:

 As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And 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.   

 And he’s not alone.  Others are feeling this:

Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”   


Carr also says that the process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating “like clockwork.” Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating “like computers.” But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain’s plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level. So if your brain can still concentrate at this stage of the summer, click on the link above and read it.  You’ll like it.