Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?

Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net’s Impact on Our Minds and Future” is a compilation of  essays written by different scholars, scientists, and thinkers in answer to 2010 Edge Question of the year :  “How is the Internet changing the way you think?”. Thought leaders and scientists spanning as diverse fields as evolutionary biology, genetics, computer science, neurophysiology, psychology, and physics have all had their say on how they see the impact of internet on the human mind and the way we think.

A little bit about Edge :

Edge, a replacement of the late Reality Club, was founded by John Brockman and went online in 1977. The mission of Edge is to ” provoke people into thinking thoughts that they normally might not have”. For each of the anniversary editions of Edge, John poses a question and invites celebrated thinkers and pundits to speculate, debate, and contribute their insights on it. Emerging out of these contributions, John  adds, is “a new natural philosophy systems, new ways of thinking that call into question many of our basic assumptions.”

In response to  2010 Edge anniversary question  “How is the Internet changing the way you think?”,  more than 150 Edge contributors, scientists, artists, and creative thinkers explore what it means to think in the new age of the internet. While a tiny few of  these contributions is full of convoluted and technical language, the majority of the essays come in easy and comprehensible  jargon.

The Net's Impact on Our Minds

I am sharing with you below some quotes from two essays that stood out to me the most from others :

The Bookless Library by Nicholas Carr ( Author of : The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains )

My own reading and thinking habits have shifted dramatically since I first logged on to the Web fifteen years ago or so. I now do the bulk of my reading and researching online. And my brain has changed as a result. Even as I’ve become more adept at navigating the rapids of the Net, I have experienced a steady decay in my ability to sustain my attention. As I explained in the Atlantic in 2008, “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.”* Knowing that the depth of our thought is tied directly to the intensity of our attentiveness, it’s hard not to conclude that as we adapt to the intellectual environment of the Net our thinking becomes shallower.

The Invisible College by Clay Shirky (Social and technology network topology researcher) :

To return to the press analogy, printing was a necessary but not sufficient input to the scientific revolution. The Invisible College, the group of natural philosophers who drove the original revolution in chemistry in the mid-1600s, were strongly critical of the alchemists, their intellectual forebears, who for centuries had made only fitful progress. By contrast, the Invisible College put chemistry on a sound scientific footing in a matter of a couple of decades, one of the most important intellectual transitions in the history of science. In the 1600s, though, a chemist and an alchemist used the same tools and had access to the same background. What did the Invisible College have that the alchemists didn’t? They had a culture of sharing. The problem with the alchemists wasn’t that they failed to turn lead into gold; the problem was that they failed uninformatively. Alchemists were obscurantists, recording their work by hand and rarely showing it to anyone but disciples. In contrast, members of the Invisible College shared their work, describing and disputing their methods and conclusions so that they all might benefit from both successes and failures and build on one another’s work.

Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net’s Impact on Our Minds and Future” by :John Brockman.

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