Here’s Your Brain On…

June 10th, 2010   •   Comments Off on Here’s Your Brain On…   

…The Internet: I Won’t Try to Argue the Point

Do you remember the TV advertisements back in the ’80’s where the topic was DRUGS?  Setting: a kitchen with some earth-toned appliances, a frying pan on top of a stove with a voice over that went something like: “This is your brain…”  Plop an egg into the hot pan: voice over: “This is your brain on drugs.”  


The message?  Drugs will fry your brain.  


The ad should be modified for current times: we should drop a hard drive or a motherboard into the frying pan: “This is your brain on the Internet.”


Nicholas Carr  is the man of the hour with his new book: What The Internet is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows.  He’s on NPR, reviewed in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (talk about branding…Bloomberg??).  And, of course, he’ll soon be on Oprah.  


I won’t try to debate the premise.  What I will do is ask us to look back, first, about 5,000 years.  That was the time that the Jews were thought to be writing texts.  (The Mayans could have had hieroglyphics by then, too.) 


I’m guessing that, at that time, there were those who thought that a book was a revelation of a demon deity.  I’ll be there were even people who could have been quoted as saying something similar to neuroscientist Michael Merzenich: we are “training our brains to pay attention to the crap.”  


Excuse me?  May I beg your pardon: not my brain: my brain pays attention to both the good stuff and the crap.   (And, by the way, Mr. Merzenich, from an atmospheric perspective, isn’t it all crap?  What has getting to the moon done for me…lately?)


Gutenberg?  Some thought he was the devil.  Polio, may I remind you, was the result of a naturally occurring virus but we applied technology on that one, too.


The Point, with a capital “P,” that I’m trying to make — after four or five paragraphs, sorry — is that there are always detractors to the new technologies.  Technology will always advance ahead of society’s ability to understand how to use it (true for the stone axe? hmm).  Stem cell research is finally coming close to its potential after W’s moratoriums.  


And, finally, try not to pontificate while one is the middle of a tech revolution: the view is in the shallows.  Only time will allow a more balanced view.



Rather, they hold confusing passages in mental suspension, continuing to read with the idea that what seems difficult to understand now may be cleared up as they go along