The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

73%

32 Critic Reviews

Mr. Carr shows that we're paying a price for plugging in.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction: “Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind.”—Michael Agger, Slate


“Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?



Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer—Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.



Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic—a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption—and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.



Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes—Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive—even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.
 

About Nicholas Carr

See more books from this Author
Nicholas Carr is the best-selling author of The Shallows, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, The Big Switch, and Does IT Matter? His articles and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and The New Republic. He has been writer-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley, and an executive editor of the Harvard Business Review. He lives in Colorado.
 
Published June 6, 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company. 293 pages
Genres: Computers & Technology, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Political & Social Sciences, History, Education & Reference, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Shallows
All: 32 | Positive: 22 | Negative: 10

Kirkus

Excellent
on Apr 01 2010

Similar in spirit to Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget (2010)—cogent, urgent and well worth reading.

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NY Times

Above average
on Jun 03 2010

“The Shallows” is most successful when Carr sticks to cultural criticism, as he documents the losses that accompany the arrival of new technologies.

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Guardian

Below average
on Jul 03 2011

One begins to wonder whether Carr is mourning the death of the author, the end of narratives and all that, and using neuroscience to vindicate his grieving.

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Guardian

Below average
on Sep 11 2010

The Shallows does not justify its length.

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Blog Critics

Above average
on Jul 08 2010

It’s worth reading this book to remind ourselves that we are responsible for the priorities we set and the choices we make.

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WSJ online

Good
on Jun 04 2010

Mr. Carr shows that we're paying a price for plugging in.

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NPR

Above average
on Jun 23 2010

It remains to be seen if he's shouted down or listened to.

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Financial Times

Good
on Sep 20 2010

Carr writes fluidly and patiently for the general reader, and he’s at his best when digressing into the history of technology.

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Financial Times

Good
on May 30 2010

Either he is very well read or he is a hell of a Googler.

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NY Journal of Books

Excellent
on Jun 06 2011

Superbly researched and written, Mr. Carr presents his thesis through the grand sweep of communication shifts.

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AV Club

Good
on Jun 03 2010

The Shallows isn’t McLuhan’s Understanding Media, but the curiosity rather than trepidation with which Carr reports on the effects of online culture pulls him well into line with his predecessor.

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LA Times

Good
on Jun 27 2010

He makes a convincing case that we are altering our brains with every ping and click-though.

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The Telegraph

Above average
on Aug 27 2010

Carr’s argument felt stretched at this length – though he would no doubt blame that on my inadequate attention span.

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Christian Science Monitor

Excellent
on Jun 21 2010

Carr brilliantly brings together numerous studies and experiments to support this astounding argument.

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Suite 101

Good
on Jul 12 2010

Nicholas Carr has produced a lot of food for thought in The Shallows.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
on Jun 06 2010

Carr has meticulously and elegantly grounded his thesis in the latest cognitive sciences.

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The Seattle Times

Above average
on Jun 17 2010

Carr's argument is thought- provoking but a bit breathless.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Below average
Reviewed by Daniel Menaker on Jun 04 2010

The very cortices and hippocampi and parietal lobes and such, whose higher, deeper functions Carr sees imperiled by the Internet, are what created the Internet in the first place.

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The Daily Beast

Below average
on Jun 10 2010

Carr comes across as a Luddite at times, especially when the former English grad student rapturously romanticizes libraries, books, and the act of reading.

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Scotsman.com

Above average
on Jul 01 2011

Be very, very worried about the internet. Why? Nicholas Carr tells us it's making us dumber.

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The Millions

Above average
on Oct 25 2010

Carr has a weakness, here and there, for telling us what we already know.

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London Review of Books

Above average
on Mar 03 2011

It’s not that the web is making us less intelligent; if anything, the evidence suggests it sharpens more cognitive skills than it dulls.

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Science News

Good
on Aug 13 2010

His take on the problems of the plugged-in brain is sure to spur debate, though — both online and off.

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Open Salon

Above average
on Sep 21 2010

In the end I don't think Carr convinced me completely that the internet is bad for humanity.

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Literary Review

Excellent

The Shallows is a worthy illustration that books do, indeed, enable deep reflection.

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SF CrowsNest

Good
on Jan 04 2011

The more I read this book the more important I felt it was becoming.

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Englewood Review of Books

Good
on Aug 20 2010

It is a thought-provoking and valuable book that should encourage conscientious Christians to evaluate how this powerful tool may be shaping their minds—for good or ill.

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Ford Literary Blog

Good
on Nov 15 2010

Deep reading of thoughtful texts in a traditional linear style, like The Shallows, may keep our brains in shape.

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Nerdist

Good
Reviewed by Jessica Barton on Jul 02 2010

Basically, The Shallows is a good read. It’s meant to coerce you into a bit of deep thought and if you can tear yourself away from a screen for a few hours, you’ll probably be glad that you did.

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Fancy Goods

Good
on Jul 09 2010

The Shallows is a thought-provoking work, particularly interesting, I’d have thought, for those who love books in their current form.

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EzineArticles

Above average
on May 30 2011

What writer or researcher would want to go back to haunting the stacks and dusty corridors of libraries, when so much more can be accessed with the click of a mouse?

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The Rag Blog

Above average
on Jul 10 2010

He doesn’t quite predict anything so dire, perhaps for a reason any long-form journalist knows well: publications that don’t preach hope don’t sell as well as those that do.

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