Nick Carr has come up with good thought food in an Atlantic Monthly article titled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" While the title is excessively tantalizing (Carr also penned the supercharged "IT Doesn't Matter" for the Harvard Business Review in 2003), with "Google" and "stupid" separated by a few words, Carr explores how the flood of data flowing across the network is wreaking havoc with media consumption habits:
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.
In his CNET blog "Technically Incorrect," Chris Matyszczyk has some advice for Carr--a that has five steps to help avoid becoming a "pancake person," spread too wide and thin by the Internet firehose.
Google and other services excel in the machine processing of billions of bits of data at high speed. The human brain is a high-speed processing organ, and the intersection with the Net is altering neural patterns.
The generation brought up on the Web communicates in short bursts, with instant messaging and SMS, continuously multitasks and consumes information in smaller chunks. The capability to read or write narratives longer than a typical e-mail message is diminishing. Information processing for humans is becoming more machine-like, processing massive amounts of loosely coupled data bits, as machines start to mimic some of the brain's more sophisticated pattern recognition features.
Now imagine reading "Moby Dick" in 140-character chunks while you are talking on the phone and glancing at YouTube videos.
As Matyszczyk suggests, spending a day each week unhooked from the Web could be liberating.