What the Net is Doing to Our Brains

The conversation is back with the release of Nick Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. I haven’t read it yet but you can get the gist by perusing the reviews, following Carr’s blog, or reading RSSted Development where I briefly contrast Carr and Cowen. To see some back-and-forth on what the studies actually say about technology and distractability, read the comments section of Jonah Lehrer’s post.

I continue to try to figure out how I can improve my ability to concentrate, and I worry about how the internet is adversely affecting that mission. In the end I fall into the pro-internet camp, if such a crude distinction can even be made, but I do not think this is mutually exclusive with whole-hearted support of the broader conversation Carr has ignited or this Alain de Botton quip:

One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is how we can relearn to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything.

Recent steps I’ve taken to improve my ability to concentrate: a) track my time more rigorously, b) use self-control to block access to twitter, facebook, and other time sink sites; c) turn off email for hours at a time, d) don’t use mobile email, e) wear Bose headsets to block out noise and to remind myself I’m supposed to be working.


  • Speaking of books I haven’t read yet, The Authenticity Hoax sounds interesting.
  • Here’s a clip showing what not to do if you’re a PR person faced with an inquisitive reporter via SF’s Laguna Honda hospital.
  • AEI crunches the numbers on how much money U.S. airline consumers would save if Open Skies were global.
  • Colin Marshall asks how much human energy is wasted on personal relationship re-engineering (aka therapy).

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