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Waarderingen van techniek

Voorkant Carr 'The shallows' Nicholas CARR
The shallows - How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember
London: Atlantic Books, 2010, 276 blzn.; ISBN-13: 978 18 4887 2271

[Weer een meer journalistiek boek van deze Amerikaanse auteur. Helder geschreven, toegankelijk. Het gaat over de overgang van een lineaire manier van denken en informatie verwerken naar een fragmentarische hypermedia manier van denken en inhoud oppikken onder invloed van het Internet. Het Internet heeft als medium grote voordelen boven oudere media, het omvat eigenlijk alle media tegelijkertijd, en is zeer bruikbaar, maar dat gebruik komt wel met een prijs. De opzet ervan met hyperlinks en zo verder versnippert onze aandacht, leidt ons voortdurend af, leidt tot scannend en ongeconcentreerd gedrag, tast de diepgang aan. Dat gedrag wordt ook nog eens een patroon dat zich vastlegt in onze hersenen, vooral ook omdat ook andere media zich aanpassen aan deze manier van informatie presenteren. Carr wijdt regelmatig uit, sommige van die zijpaden zijn niet heel erg relevant, zoals de stukken over Taylor of Google of Weizenbaum.]

(1) Prologue - The watchdog and the thief

Carr begint met het noemen van Marshall McLuhans Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Dat boek maakte duidelijk hoe belangrijk het medium is, ook al verdwijnt het achter de inhoud. Maar McLuhan was daar niet alleen maar kritiekloos enthousiast over.

"When people start debating (as they always do) whether the medium’s effects are good or bad, it’s the content they wrestle over. Enthusiasts celebrate it; skeptics decry it. The terms of the argument have been pretty much the same for every new informational medium, going back at least to the books that came off Gutenberg’s press. Enthusiasts, with good reason, praise the torrent of new content that the technology uncorks, seeing it as signaling a 'democratization' of culture. Skeptics, with equally good reason, condemn the crassness of the content, viewing it as signaling a 'dumbing down' of culture. One side’s abundant Eden is the other’s vast wasteland. The Internet is the latest medium to spur this debate. The clash between Net enthusiasts and Net skeptics, carried out over the last two decades through dozens of books and articles and thousands of blog posts, video clips, and podcasts, has become as polarized as ever, with the former heralding a new golden age of access and participation and the latter bemoaning a new dark age of mediocrity and narcissism. The debate has been important — content does matter — but because it hinges on personal ideology and taste, it has gone down a cul-de-sac. The views have become extreme, the attacks personal. "Luddite!" sneers the enthusiast. "Philistine!" scoffs the skeptic. "Cassandra!" "Pollyanna!"
What both enthusiast and skeptic miss is what McLuhan saw: that in the long run a medium’s content matters less than the medium itself in influencing how we think and act. As our window onto the world, and onto ourselves, a popular medium molds what we see and how we see it — and eventually, if we use it enough, it changes who we are, as individuals and as a society."(2-3)

Door ons op de inhoud te concentreren zeggen we dat het technisch middel neutraal is. We maken onszelf wijs dat technische middelen maar gereedschappen zijn die we voor goede en slechte doeleinden kunnen gebruiken. Dat maakt ons blind voor de effecten die technische middelen van zichzelf uit hebben zonder dat we daar controle over hebben.

"The computer screen bulldozes our doubts with its bounties and conveniences. It is so much our servant that it would seem churlish to notice that it is also our master."(4)

(5) One - HAL and me

Ook het rijke Internet dat we de hele dag door voor allerlei activiteiten gebruiken komt met een prijs.

"And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles."(6-7)

We zijn gewend geraakt aan snel scannend lezen en zijn niet meer in staat een langere tekst te lezen en de argumentatie ervan te volgen. Veel mensen lezen helemaal geen boeken meer en ook webpagina's met uitgebreide informatie worden niet meer gelezen: er wordt binnen een mum van tijd doorgeklikt.

"For some people, the very idea of reading a book has come to seem old-fashioned, maybe even a little silly — like sewing your own shirts or butchering your own meat."(8)

"We seem to have arrived, as McLuhan said we would, at an important juncture in our intellectual and cultural history, a moment of transition between two very different modes of thinking. What we’re trading away in return for the riches of the Net — and only a curmudgeon would refuse to see the riches — is what Karp calls 'our old linear thought process'. Calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts — the faster, the better."(10)

"For the last five centuries, ever since Gutenberg’s printing press made book reading a popular pursuit, the linear, literary mind has been at the center of art, science, and society. As supple as it is subtle, it’s been the imaginative mind of the Renaissance, the rational mind of the Enlightenment, the inventive mind of the Industrial Revolution, even the subversive mind of Modernism. It may soon be yesterday’s mind."(10)

Daarna beschrijft Carr zijn eigen ervaringen van 'boek naar Internet'.

[Het verhaal is voor mij heel herkenbaar. Wat ik alleen niet begrijp is het gebrek aan afstand dat Carr er bij gehad lijkt te hebben. Ik heb ook eindeloos veel tijd zitten te verliezen met computers, maar bijvoorbeeld nooit de illusie gehad dat de wereld er ook inhoudelijk beter op werd omdat we er steeds meer mee konden. Evenmin heb ik me zo laten beïnvloeden dat ik me niet meer op langere taken kon concentreren: natuurlijk ben ook ik een ster geworden in het scannen van informatie uit allerlei bronnen, maar ik ben altijd boeken blijven bestuderen en lezen en ik kan ook gemakkelijk langere webpagina's verwerken. Juist omdat de oppervlakkigheid van veel informatie op Internet evident is en ik altijd behoefte heb gevoeld aan diepgang. Ik kan niet begrijpen dat Carr of anderen dat niet zouden hebben. Dat moet toch iets te maken hebben met 'erbij willen horen', de onmiddellijke controle willen hebben. Het is immers niet noodzakelijk om je zo door dat niet-lineaire paradigma te laten meeslepen, je kunt beide paradigma's combineren. Ik heb daar zelf geen moeite mee. Maar het vraagt een zekere kritische afstand.]

(17) Two - The vital paths

Lang werd - vanuit de mechanische visie die de industrialisering had opgeroepen - gedacht dat de complexe structuur van de hersenen nooit veranderde. Een heel fatalistische visie waarbinnen nooit gedacht kon worden dat er veranderingen mogelijk waren. Slechts een paar wetenschappers zagen dat hersenen zich voortdurend aanpassen aan het gebruik ervan (bv. William James, Freud, J.Z. Young, Merzenich). Gewoontes, terugkerend gedrag maken dat bepaalde vitale paden ontstaan in de hersenen. Maar je kunt die gewoonten veranderen en dan ontstaan er andere paden: de hersenen zijn plastisch en passen zich aan.

"The brain is not the machine we once thought it to be. Though different regions are associated with different mental functions, the cellular components do not form permanent structures or play rigid roles. They’re flexible. They change with experience, circumstance, and need. Some of the most extensive and remarkable changes take place in response to damage to the nervous system."(29)

"Our expanding understanding of the brain’s adaptability has led to the development of new therapies for conditions that used to be considered untreatable."(30)

"The genius of our brain’s construction is not that it contains a lot of hardwiring but that it doesn’t."(31)

"Our ways of thinking, perceiving, and acting, we now know, are not entirely determined by our genes. Nor are they entirely determined by our childhood experiences. We change them through the way we live — and, as Nietzsche sensed, through the tools we use."(31)

Gedrag kan hersenen dus vormen. Maar het omgekeerde is ook het geval: de toestand waarin hersenen verkeren kan ook het gedrag beïnvloeden.

"But the news is not all good. Although neuroplasticity provides an escape from genetic determinism, a loophole for free thought and free will, it also imposes its own form of determinism on our behavior. As particular circuits in our brain strengthen through the repetition of a physical or mental activity, they begin to transform that activity into a habit."(34)

"Plastic does not mean elastic, in other words. Our neural loops don’t snap back to their former state the way a rubber band does; they hold onto their changed state. And nothing says the new state has to be a desirable one. Bad habits can be ingrained in our neurons as easily as good ones."(34)

"The potential for unwelcome neuroplastic adaptations also exists in the everyday, normal functioning of our minds. Experiments show that just as the brain can build new or stronger circuits through physical or mental practice, those circuits can weaken or dissolve with neglect."(35)

(36) A digression - on what the brain thinks about when it thinks about itself

(39) Three - Tools of the mind

"Our intellectual maturation as individuals can be traced through the way we draw pictures, or maps, of our surroundings. (...) We progress, in other words, from drawing what we see to drawing what we know."(39)

"The technology of the map gave to man a new and more comprehending mind, better able to understand the unseen forces that shape his surroundings and his existence. What the map did for space — translate a natural phenomenon into an artificial and intellectual conception of that phenomenon — another technology, the mechanical clock, did for time."(41)

"Spurred by the need for temporal exactitude, monks took the lead in pushing forward the technologies of timekeeping. It was in the monastery that the first mechanical clocks were assembled, their movements governed by the swinging of weights, and it was the bells in the church tower that first sounded the hours by which people would come to parcel out their lives."(42)

"The need for tighter scheduling and synchronization of work, transport, devotion, and even leisure provided the impetus for rapid progress in clock technology. It was no longer enough for every town or parish to follow its own clock. Now, time had to be the same everywhere — or else commerce and industry would falter. Units of time became standardized — seconds, minutes, hours — and clock mechanisms were fine tuned to measure those units with much greater accuracy."(42-43)

"If the proliferation of public clocks changed the way people worked, shopped, played, and otherwise behaved as members of an ever more regulated society, the spread of more personal tools for tracking time — chamber clocks, pocket watches, and, a little later, wristwatches — had more intimate consequences. (...) The mechanical clock changed the way we saw ourselves. And like the map, it changed the way we thought."(43)

"Independent of the practical concerns that inspired the timekeeping machine’s creation and governed its day-to-day use, the clock’s methodical ticking helped bring into being the scientific mind and the scientific man."(44)

De kaart en de klok horen bij de gereedschappen waarmee we onze mentale en intellectuele mogelijkheden vergroten ('intellectual technologies').

"Although the use of any kind of tool can influence our thoughts and perspectives — the plow changed the outlook of the farmer, the microscope opened new worlds of mental exploration for the scientist — it is our intellectual technologies that have the greatest and most lasting power over what and how we think. They are our most intimate tools, the ones we use for self-expression, for shaping personal and public identity, and for cultivating relations with others."(44-45)

"As the stories of the map and the mechanical clock illustrate, intellectual technologies, when they come into popular use, often promote new ways of thinking or extend to the general population established ways of thinking that had been limited to a small, elite group. Every intellectual technology, to put it another way, embodies an intellectual ethic, a set of assumptions about how the human mind works or should work. The map and the clock shared a similar ethic. Both placed a new stress on measurement and abstraction, on perceiving and defining forms and processes beyond those apparent to the senses.
The intellectual ethic of a technology is rarely recognized by its inventors. They are usually so intent on solving a particular problem or untangling some thorny scientific or engineering dilemma that they don’t see the broader implications of their work. The users of the technology are also usually oblivious to its ethic. They, too, are concerned with the practical benefits they gain from employing the tool.(45)"()

Over de invloed van technologie wordt verschillend gedacht. Deterministen zeggen dat we er geen controle over hebben, instrumentalisten zeggen van wel. Op de lange termijn gezien lijken de deterministen gelijk te hebben: over het algemeen valt er voor mensen niet zo veel te kiezen.

"But if you take a broader historical or social view, the claims of the determinists gain credibility. Although individuals and communities may make very different decisions about which tools they use, that doesn’t mean that as a species we’ve had much control over the path or pace of technological progress. It strains belief to argue that we 'chose' to use maps and clocks (as if we might have chosen not to). It’s even harder to accept that we 'chose' the myriad side effects of those technologies, many of which, as we’ve seen, were entirely unanticipated when the technologies came into use."(47)

"Though we’re rarely conscious of the fact, many of the routines of our lives follow paths laid down by technologies that came into use long before we were born. It’s an overstatement to say that technology progresses autonomously — our adoption and use of tools are heavily influenced by economic, political, and demographic considerations — but it isn’t an overstatement to say that progress has its own logic, which is not always consistent with the intentions or wishes of the toolmakers and tool users. Sometimes our tools do what we tell them to. Other times, we adapt ourselves to our tools’ requirements.
The conflict between the determinists and the instrumentalists will never be resolved. It involves, after all, two radically different views of the nature and destiny of humankind. The debate is as much about faith as it is about reason. But there is one thing that determinists and instrumentalists can agree on: technological advances often mark turning points in history."(47-48)

"What’s been harder to discern is the influence of technologies, particularly intellectual technologies, on the functioning of people’s brains."(48)

"Although the workings of our gray matter still lie beyond the reach of archaeologists’ tools, we now know not only that it is probable that the use of intellectual technologies shaped and reshaped the circuitry in our heads, but that it had to be so. Any repeated experience influences our synapses; the changes wrought by the recurring use of tools that extend or supplement our nervous systems should be particularly pronounced. And even though we can’t document, at a physical level, the changes in thinking that happened in the distant past, we can use proxies in the present."(49)

"Because language is, for human beings, the primary vessel of conscious thought, particularly higher forms of thought, the technologies that restructure language tend to exert the strongest influence over our intellectual lives."(50-51)

Over spreken, lezen en schrijven, de historische ontwikkeling van talen, de overgang van een orale naar een schriftcultuur.

"The oral world of our distant ancestors may well have had emotional and intuitive depths that we can no longer appreciate. McLuhan believed that preliterate peoples must have enjoyed a particularly intense 'sensuous involvement' with the world. When we learned to read, he argued, we suffered a "considerable detachment from the feelings or emotional involvement that a nonliterate man or society would experience". But intellectually, our ancestors’ oral culture was in many ways a shallower one than our own. The written word liberated knowledge from the bounds of individual memory and freed language from the rhythmical and formulaic structures required to support memorization and recitation. It opened to the mind broad new frontiers of thought and expression. "The achievements of the Western world, it is obvious, are testimony to the tremendous values of literacy," McLuhan wrote."(56-57)

(58) Four - The deepening page

Over media om te schrijven (kleitabletten, papyrus, papyrusrollen, perkament, wastabletten, codices, andere boekvormen, aaneengeschreven woorden, hardop en stil lezen, ontwikkeling van syntaxis rond 1000nC. De invoering van spaties tussen woorden en van leestekens die het lezen en het schrijven gemakkelijker en sneller maakten.

"The advances in book technology changed the personal experience of reading and writing. They also had social consequences. The broader culture began to mold itself, in ways both subtle and obvious, around the practice of silent book reading. The nature of education and scholarship changed, as universities began to stress private reading as an essential complement to classroom lectures. Libraries began to play much more central roles in university life and, more generally, in the life of the city. Library architecture evolved too. Private cloisters and carrels, tailored to accommodate vocal reading, were torn out and replaced by large public rooms where students, professors, and other patrons sat together at long tables reading silently to themselves. Reference books such as dictionaries, glossaries, and concordances became important as aids to reading. Copies of the precious texts were often chained to the library reading tables. To fill the increasing demand for books, a publishing industry started to take shape. Book production, long the realm of the religious scribe working in a monastery’s scriptorium, started to be centralized in secular workshops, where professional scribes worked for pay under the direction of the owner. A lively market for used books materialized. For the first time in history, books had set prices."(66-67)

Met de uitvinding van de boekdrukkunst en het gebruik van papier werden die ontwikkelingen nog versterkt.

"A virtuous cycle had been set in motion. The growing availability of books fired the public’s desire for literacy, and the expansion of literacy further stimulated the demand for books. The printing industry boomed. By the end of the fifteenth century, nearly 250 towns in Europe had print shops, and some 12 million volumes had already come off their presses. The sixteenth century saw Gutenberg’s technology leap from Europe to Asia, the Middle East, and, when the Spanish set up a press in Mexico City in 1539, the Americas. By the start of the seventeenth century, letterpresses were everywhere, producing not only books but newspapers, scientific journals, and a variety of other periodicals. The first great flowering of printed literature arrived, with works by such masters as Shakespeare, Cervantes, Molière, and Milton, not to mention Bacon and Descartes, entering the inventories of booksellers and the libraries of readers."(70)

"As language expanded, consciousness deepened. The deepening extended beyond the page. It’s no exaggeration to say that the writing and reading of books enhanced and refined people’s experience of life and of nature."(75)

"As our ancestors imbued their minds with the discipline to follow a line of argument or narrative through a succession of printed pages, they became more contemplative, reflective, and imaginative."(75)

"Like our forebears during the later years of the Middle Ages, we find ourselves today between two technological worlds. After 550 years, the printing press and its products are being pushed from the center of our intellectual life to its edges. The shift began during the middle years of the twentieth century, when we started devoting more and more of our time and attention to the cheap, copious, and endlessly entertaining products of the first wave of electric and electronic media: radio, cinema, phonograph, television. But those technologies were always limited by their inability to transmit the written word. They could displace but not replace the book. Culture’s mainstream still ran through the printing press.
Now the mainstream is being diverted, quickly and decisively, into a new channel. The electronic revolution is approaching its culmination as the computer — desktop, laptop, handheld — becomes our constant companion and the Internet becomes our medium of choice for storing, processing, and sharing information in all forms, including text. The new world will remain, of course, a literate world, packed with the familiar symbols of the alphabet. We cannot go back to the lost oral world, any more than we can turn the clock back to a time before the clock existed. "Writing and print and the computer," writes Walter Ong, "are all ways of technologizing the word" and once technologized, the word cannot be de-technologized. But the world of the screen, as we’re already coming to understand, is a very different place from the world of the page. A new intellectual ethic is taking hold. The pathways in our brains are once again being rerouted."(77)

(78) A digression - On Lee de Forest and his amazing audion

(81) Five - A medium of the most general nature

Over Alan Turing en de Turing-machine en over de ontwikkelingen ná hem op het vlak van computers en interactieve computernetwerken. Een en ander heeft niet geleid tot minder tv kijken, wel tot minder tijdschriften en boeken lezen. Het Net domineert op het moment alles, omdat het Net alle media omvat en met de snelheid van het licht. De oude media blijven nog een tijd bestaan, maar zullen uiteindelijk verdwijnen.

"Quite a few people still listen to vinyl records, use film cameras to take photographs, and look up phone numbers in the printed Yellow Pages. But the old technologies lose their economic and cultural force. They become progress’s dead ends. It’s the new technologies that govern production and consumption, that guide people’s behavior and shape their perceptions. That’s why the future of knowledge and culture no longer lies in books or newspapers or TV shows or radio programs or records or CDs. It lies in digital files shot through our universal medium at the speed of light."(88)

"The shift from paper to screen doesn’t just change the way we navigate a piece of writing. It also influences the degree of attention we devote to it and the depth of our immersion in it. Hyperlinks also alter our experience of media. Links are in one sense a variation on the textual allusions, citations, and footnotes that have long been common elements of documents. But their effect on us as we read is not at all the same. Links don’t just point us to related or supplemental works; they propel us toward them. They encourage us to dip in and out of a series of texts rather than devote sustained attention to any one of them. Hyperlinks are designed to grab our attention. Their value as navigational tools is inextricable from the distraction they cause."(90)

Ze leiden niet alleen af, ze versnipperen onze aandacht, we zien het totaal van iets vaak niet meer.

"We all know how distracting this cacophony of stimuli can be. We joke about it all the time. A new e-mail message announces its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. A few seconds later, our RSS reader tells us that one of our favorite bloggers has uploaded a new post. A moment after that, our mobile phone plays the ringtone that signals an incoming text message. Simultaneously, a Facebook or Twitter alert blinks on-screen. In addition to everything flowing through the network, we also have immediate access to all the other software programs running on our computers — they, too, compete for a piece of our mind. Whenever we turn on our computer, we are plunged into an 'ecosystem of interruption technologies', as the blogger and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow terms it."(91)

"The Net’s influence doesn’t end at the edge of a computer screen. Media companies are reshaping their traditional products, even the physical ones, to more closely resemble what people experience when they’re online. If, in the early days of the Web, the design of online publications was inspired by print publications (as the design of Gutenberg’s Bible was inspired by scribal books), today the inspiration tends to go in the opposite direction. Many magazines have tweaked their layouts to mimic or at least echo the look and feel of Web sites. They’ve shortened their articles, introduced capsule summaries, and crowded their pages with easy-to browse blurbs and captions. Rolling Stone, once known for publishing sprawling, adventurous features by writers like Hunter S. Thompson, now eschews such works, offering readers a jumble of short articles and reviews. There was "no Internet", publisher Jann Wenner explains, "back when Rolling Stone was publishing these seven-thousand-word stories". Most popular magazines have come to be "filled with color, oversized headlines, graphics, photos, and pull quotes," writes Michael Scherer in the Columbia Journalism Review. "The gray text page, once a magazine staple, has been all but banished.""(94-95)

"Such copycat strategies haven’t been particularly successful in stanching the flow of readers from print to online publications. After a year, during which its circulation continued to decline, the New York Times quietly abandoned much of its redesign, restricting article summaries to a single page in most editions. A few magazines, realizing that competing with the Web on its own terms is a losing proposition, have reversed their strategies. They’ve gone back to simpler, less cluttered designs and longer articles. Newsweek over-hauled its pages in 2009, placing a greater emphasis on essays and professional photographs and adopting a heavier, more expensive paper stock. The price that publications pay for going against the conventions of the Web is a further whittling of their readership."(95)

"Like their print counterparts, most TV shows and movies are also trying to become more Web-like. Television networks have added text 'crawls' and 'flippers' to their screens and routinely run infographics and pop-up ads during their programs."(95-96)

Ook theaters, concertzalen, en bibliotheken passen zich aan en maken Internet een belangrijke insteek.

(99) Six - The very image of a book

Over de voordelen van een boek tegenover een computer.

"The experience of reading tends to be better with a book too. Words stamped on a page in black ink are easier to read than words formed of pixels on a backlit screen. You can read a dozen or a hundred printed pages without suffering the eye fatigue that often results from even a brief stretch of online reading. Navigating a book is simpler and, as software programmers say, more intuitive. You can flip through real pages much more quickly and flexibly than you can through virtual pages. And you can write notes in a book’s margins or highlight passages that move or inspire you. You can even get a book’s author to sign its title page. When you’re finished with a book, you can use it to fill an empty space on your bookshelf — or lend it to a friend.
Despite years of hype about electronic books, most people haven’t shown much interest in them. Investing a few hundred dollars in a specialized 'digital reader' has seemed silly, given the ease and pleasure of buying and reading old-fashioned books. But books will not remain exempt from the digital media revolution. The economic advantages of digital production and distribution — no big purchases of ink and paper, no printer bills, no loading of heavy boxes onto trucks, no returns of unsold copies — are every bit as compelling for book publishers and distributors as for other media companies. And the lower costs translate into lower prices. It’s not unusual for e-books to be sold for half the price of print editions, thanks in part to subsidies from device manufacturers. The sharp discounts provide a strong incentive for people to make the switch from paper to pixels. "(100)

[Dit is nu zo'n beschrijving die afhankelijk is van de technische stand van zaken. In feite zegt Carr het zelf verderop: beeldschermen werden beter, 'readers' werden beter, er kwamen tablets, inmiddels blijkt lezen van beeldscherm ook zijn voordelen voor je ogen te hebben, en zo verder. Mensen lezen daarom veel meer van beeldscherm tegenwoordig. Maar er zijn andere problemen: de digitale boeken zelf zien er slecht uit, ze wijken vaak sterk af van echte boeken - geen paginanummers, alle belangrijke gegevens achterin, slecht leesbare letter als je een epub op een desktopcomputer leest en zo verder. En de prijzen dalen vaak niet door allerlei prijsafspraken tussen uitgevers. In feite is het dus niet de techniek die ons dwars zit, maar het economische systeem dat alleen maar winstmaximalisatie wil en daarom zo goedkoop mogelijk wil produceren en slechte digitale boeken aflevert.]

"When a printed book — whether a recently published scholarly history or a two hundred-year-old Victorian novel — is transferred to an electronic device connected to the Internet, it turns into something very like a Web site. Its words become wrapped in all the distractions of the networked computer. Its links and other digital enhancements propel the reader hither and yon. It loses what the late John Updike called its 'edges' and dissolves into the vast, roiling waters of the Net. The linearity of the printed book is shattered, along with the calm attentiveness it encourages in the reader. The high-tech features of devices like the Kindle and Apple’s new iPad may make it more likely that we’ll read e-books, but the way we read them will be very different from the way we read printed editions."(104)

[Carr doet alsof dat niet anders kan. Maar natuurlijk kunnen we hier heel goed onze keuzes maken zodat we wel kalm en geconcenrtreerd kunnen lezen als bij een boek. Als dat bij een boek al altijd het geval is, want daarover heb ik ook zo mijn twijfels. Focus of onrust bij een lezer hangen van zo veel dingen af ... Dit is me iets te stellig allemaal. Al het gepraat van uitgevers en publicisten over 'cell phone novels', over 'vooks' - digitale boeken met videofragmenten tussendoor - klinkt even fatalistisch en conformistisch. Ik zie geen echte argumenten, ik zie alleen maar de angst om economisch de boot te missen, om er niet bij te horen.]

"The provisional nature of digital text also promises to influence writing styles. A printed book is a finished object. Once inked onto the page, its words become indelible. The finality of the act of publishing has long instilled in the best and most conscientious writers and editors a desire, even an anxiety, to perfect the works they produce — to write with an eye and an ear toward eternity. Electronic text is impermanent. In the digital marketplace, publication becomes an ongoing process rather than a discrete event, and revision can go on indefinitely. Even after an e-book is downloaded into a networked device, it can be easily and automatically updated — just as software programs routinely are today. It seems likely that removing the sense of closure from book writing will, in time, alter writers’ attitudes toward their work. The pressure to achieve perfection will diminish, along with the artistic rigor that the pressure imposed. To see how small changes in writers’ assumptions and attitudes can eventually have large effects on what they write, one need only glance at the history of correspondence. A personal letter written in, say, the nineteenth century bears little resemblance to a personal e-mail or text message written today. Our indulgence in the pleasures of informality and immediacy has led to a narrowing of expressiveness and a loss of eloquence."(107-108)

[Het aantal zinnen met 'zal' en 'zullen' is in dit hoofdstuk eindeloos groot. Allemaal voorspellingen zoals je zo vaak ziet op het terrein van technologie. Alsof de toekomst er noodzakelijkerwijs op een heel bepaalde manier uit moet zien. Hoe waar en controleerbaar zijn dit soort voorspellingen? Zoals Carr verderop zelf zegt: er is al zo vaak voorspeld dat het boek een zachte maar onvermijdelijke dood zal sterven, en nooit kwam die voorspelling uit. Die historische feiten maken hem niet voorzichtiger nu het om het Net gaat. Vreemd vind ik dat. Ook vreemd is dat hij zo weinig kritiek heeft op al die kletskousen die Internet idealiseren en precies menen te weten wat goed voor ons is.]

"Fifty years ago, it would have been possible to make the case that we were still in the age of print. Today, it is not."(111)

"Such proclamations seem a little too staged to take seriously. They come off as the latest manifestation of the outré posturing that has always characterized the anti-intellectual wing of academia. But, then again, there may be a more charitable explanation. Federman, Shirky, and others like them may be early exemplars of the postliterary mind, intellectuals for whom the screen rather than the page has always been the primary conduit of information. (...)
Although it may be tempting to ignore those who suggest the value of the literary mind has always been exaggerated, that would be a mistake. Their arguments are another important sign of the fundamental shift taking place in society’s attitude toward intellectual achievement. Their words also make it a lot easier for people to justify that shift — to convince themselves that surfing the Web is a suitable, even superior, substitute for deep reading and other forms of calm and attentive thought. In arguing that books are archaic and dispensable, Federman and Shirky provide the intellectual cover that allows thoughtful people to slip comfortably into the permanent state of distractedness that defines the online life."(111-112)

[Ja, maar hebben ze gelijk met wat ze beweren? Waarom geen standpunt innemen?]

(115) Seven - The juggler's brain

"Now comes the crucial question: What can science tell us about the actual effects that Internet use is having on the way our minds work? No doubt, this question will be the subject of a great deal of research in the years ahead. Already, though, there is much we know or can surmise. The news is even more disturbing than I had suspected. Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, educators, and Web designers point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.(115)"()

Internet stimuleert vrijwel alle zintuigen. Reacties terug belonen ons vrijwel meteen.

"Today’s teenagers typically send or receive a message every few minutes throughout their waking hours. As the psychotherapist Michael Hausauer notes, teens and other young adults have a "terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop". If they stop sending messages, they risk becoming invisible.(118)"()

[Daar heb je het weer: de angst om er niet bij te horen maakt dat mensen zich conformeren. Overigens vraag ik me hierbij wel af of dit fenomeen in de V.S. niet veel sterker is dan in Europese landen.]

"The Net’s cacophony of stimuli short-circuits both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from thinking either deeply or creatively. Our brains turn into simple signal-processing units, quickly shepherding information into consciousness and then back out again."(119)

"What we’re not doing when we’re online also has neurological consequences. Just as neurons that fire together wire together, neurons that don’t fire together don’t wire together. As the time we spend scanning Web pages crowds out the time we spend reading books, as the time we spend exchanging bite-sized text messages crowds out the time we spend composing sentences and paragraphs, as the time we spend hopping across links crowds out the time we devote to quiet reflection and contemplation, the circuits that support those old intellectual functions and pursuits weaken and begin to break apart. The brain recycles the disused neurons and synapses for other, more pressing work. We gain new skills and perspectives but lose old ones."(120)

Meer over neurologisch onderzoek naar hersenactiviteiten bij boeken lezen en websites bezoeken.

"By the end of the decade, the enthusiasm [over het gebruik van computers en Internet in het onderwijs - GdG] had begun to subside. Research was painting a fuller, and very different, picture of the cognitive effects of hypertext. Evaluating links and navigating a path through them, it turned out, involves mentally demanding problem-solving tasks that are extraneous to the act of reading itself. Deciphering hypertext substantially increases readers’ cognitive load and hence weakens their ability to comprehend and retain what they’re reading. A 1989 study showed that readers of hypertext often ended up clicking distractedly "through pages instead of reading them carefully". A 1990 experiment revealed that hypertext readers often "could not remember what they had and had not read". (...) Even though the World Wide Web has made hypertext commonplace, indeed ubiquitous, research continues to show that people who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text peppered with links."(126-127)

"The web combines the technology of hypertext with the technology of multimedia to deliver what’s called 'hypermedia'. It’s not just words that are served up and electronically linked, but also images, sounds, and moving pictures. Just as the pioneers of hypertext once believed that links would provide a richer learning experience for readers, many educators also assumed that multimedia, or 'rich media', as it’s sometimes called, would deepen comprehension and strengthen learning. The more inputs, the better. But this assumption, long accepted without much evidence, has also been contradicted by research. The division of attention demanded by multimedia further strains our cognitive abilities, diminishing our learning and weakening our understanding. When it comes to supplying the mind with the stuff of thought, more can be less."(129-130)

"The Net is, by design, an interruption system, a machine geared for dividing attention. That’s not only a result of its ability to display many different kinds of media simultaneously. It’s also a result of the ease with which it can be programmed to send and receive messages. Most e-mail applications, to take an obvious example, are set up to check automatically for new messages every five or ten minutes, and people routinely click the 'check for new mail' button even more frequently than that. Studies of office workers who use computers reveal that they constantly stop what they’re doing to read and respond to incoming e-mails. It’s not unusual for them to glance at their in-box thirty or forty times an hour (though when asked how frequently they look, they’ll often give a much lower figure). Since each glance represents a small interruption of thought, a momentary redeployment of mental resources, the cognitive cost can be high. Psychological research long ago proved what most of us know from experience: frequent interruptions scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory, and make us tense and anxious. The more complex the train of thought we’re involved in, the greater the impairment the distractions cause."(131-132)

"The results also reinforce something that Nielsen wrote in 1997 after his first study of online reading. "How do users read on the web?" he asked then. His succinct answer: "They don’t"."(136)

"There’s nothing wrong with browsing and scanning, or even power-browsing and power-scanning. We’ve always skimmed newspapers more than we’ve read them, and we routinely run our eyes over books and magazines in order to get the gist of a piece of writing and decide whether it warrants more thorough reading. The ability to skim text is every bit as important as the ability to read deeply. What is different, and troubling, is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of reading. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for deeper study, scanning is becoming an end in itself — our preferred way of gathering and making sense of information of all sorts."(138)

"There are compensations. Research shows that certain cognitive skills are strengthened, sometimes substantially, by our use of computers and the Net. These tend to involve lower-level, or more primitive, mental functions such as hand-eye coordination, reflex response, and the processing of visual cues."(139)

(144) A digression - On the buoyancy of IQ scores

Over het Flynn-effect: de voortdurende stijging door de jaren heen van IQ-scores.

"But there are good reasons to be skeptical of any claim that the Flynn effect proves that people are 'smarter' today than they used to be or that the Internet is boosting the general intelligence of the human race. For one thing, as Tapscott himself notes, IQ scores have been going up for a very long time — since well before World War II, in fact — and the pace of increase has remained remarkably stable, varying only slightly from decade to decade. That pattern suggests that the rise probably reflects a deep and persistent change in some aspect of society rather than any particular recent event or technology. The fact that the Internet began to come into widespread use only about ten years ago makes it all the more unlikely that it has been a significant force propelling IQ scores upward."(145)

Andere tests laten een heel ander beeld zien: stagnatie en achteruitgang, bijvoorbeeld de PSAT-examens in de V.S. precies in de jaren 1999 tot 2008 dat het Internet populair werd. Met name de op taal gerichte onderdelen scoren slechter. Uiteindelijk blijkt het Flynn-effect meer te maken te hebben met een grotere nadruk op abstract denken in het onderwijs etc. dan met een toegenomen algemene intelligentie.

(149) Eight - The church of Google

Over Frederick Winslow Taylor.

"Taylor’s tight industrial choreography — his 'system', as he liked to call it — was embraced by manufacturers throughout the country and, in time, around the world. Seeking maximum speed, maximum efficiency, and maximum output, factory owners used time-and-motion studies to organize their work and configure the jobs of their workers. The goal, as Taylor defined it in his celebrated 1911 treatise The Principles of Scientific Management, was to identify and adopt, for every job, the 'one best method' of work and thereby to effect "the gradual substitution of science for rule of thumb throughout the mechanic arts". Once his system was applied to all acts of manual labor, Taylor assured his many followers, it would bring about a restructuring not only of industry but of society, creating a utopia of perfect efficiency. "In the past the man has been first," he declared; "in the future the system must be first."
Taylor’s system of measurement and optimization is still very much with us; it remains one of the underpinnings of industrial manufacturing. And now, thanks to the growing power that computer engineers and software coders wield over our intellectual and social lives, Taylor’s ethic is beginning to govern the realm of the mind as well. The Internet is a machine designed for the efficient, automated collection, transmission, and manipulation of information, and its legions of programmers are intent on finding the 'one best way' — the perfect algorithm — to carry out the mental movements of what we’ve come to describe as knowledge work."(149-150)

"What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind."(150)

"Subjective judgments, including aesthetic ones, don’t enter into Google’s calculations."(151)

Beschrijving van Google's interne werkwijze als het toppunt van efficiëntie.

[Ik vind het nogal een geïdealiseerd en overdreven beeld - dat is misschien wat de CEO Eric Schmidt zou willen, maar in de praktijk loopt het vaak wel even anders. Uit ervaring weet ik dat Google's algoritmes voor allerlei situaties helemaal niet zo efficiënt zijn. Probeer als particulier maar eens serieus contact te krijgen met de mensen daar. Probeer als particulier maar eens een setje foute verwijzingen naar pagina's van je website te laten verwijderen uit hun database. De links naar andere websites blijken op Internet vaak helemaal niet de status te hebben van serieuze verwijzingen door gezaghebbende tijdschriften naar waardevolle informatiebronnen zoals bij de Citation Index het geval is. Gezaghebbende kwaliteit van websites blijkt nu juist het probleem. Over het maken van links wordt door websites vaak niet nagedacht, omdat ze automatisch gegenereerd wordt vanuit commerciële motieven. Google is helemaal niet in staat gebleken om al die 'slurpers' en zo verder het hoofd te bieden. Sterker nog: ze worden het slachtoffer van hun eigen commercialisering van informatie.]

"Every click we make on the Web marks a break in our concentration, a bottom-up disruption of our attention — and it’s in Google’s economic interest to make sure we click as often as possible. The last thing the company wants is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. Google is, quite literally, in the business of distraction."(157)

"With each expansion of Google’s ambition, its Taylorist ethic gains a tighter hold on our intellectual lives."(161)

[Nou, dat valt wel mee, lijkt me, er zijn handiger manieren om met boeken te werken. Ook het Google-project 'digitaliseren door inscannen' is helemaal niet zo geweldig als het lijkt. De pagina's worden gescand, maar voor de gebruiker niet ge-OCR-ed, zo ver mijn ervaring reikt. Ik kan ieder geval geen alinea's uit hun PDF's en ook niet uit de documenten op books.google.com of scholar.google.com overkopiëren, wat voor het genereren van citaten nu net handig zou zijn. De angst voor de aantasting van intellectueel eigendom is op dat punt belemmerend groot, terwijl juist op allerlei andere punten geen enkele rekening gehouden wordt met de auteurs die 'gedigitaliseerd' worden. Google's altruïstische retoriek ten spijt.]

"Most important of all, the controversy makes clear that the world’s books will be digitized — and that the effort is likely to proceed quickly. The argument about Google Book Search has nothing to do with the wisdom of scanning printed books into a database; it has to do with the control and commercialization of that database. Whether or not Google ends up being the sole proprietor of what Darnton calls 'the largest library in the world', that library is going to be constructed; and its digital volumes, fed through the Net into every library on earth, will in time supplant many of the physical books that have long been stored on shelves. The practical benefits of making books 'discoverable and searchable online' are so great that it’s hard to imagine anyone opposing the effort. The digitization of old books, as well as ancient scrolls and other documents, is already opening exciting new avenues for research into the past. Some foresee 'a second Renaissance' of historical discovery. As Darnton says, "Digitize we must." But the inevitability of turning the pages of books into online images should not prevent us from considering the side effects. To make a book discoverable and searchable online is also to dismember it. The cohesion of its text, the linearity of its argument or narrative as it flows through scores of pages, is sacrificed. What that ancient Roman craftsman wove together when he created the first codex is unstitched. The quiet that was 'part of the meaning' of the codex is sacrificed as well. Surrounding every page or snippet of text on Google Book Search is a welter of links, tools, tabs, and ads, each eagerly angling for a share of the reader’s fragmented attention."(164-165)

"Leo Marx opens The Machine in the Garden, his classic 1964 study of technology’s influence on American culture, with a recounting of Hawthorne’s morning in Sleepy Hollow. The writer’s real subject, Marx argues, is "the landscape of the psyche" and in particular "the contrast between two conditions of consciousness". The quiet clearing in the woods provides the solitary thinker with "a singular insulation from disturbance", a protected space for reflection. The clamorous arrival of the train, with its load of 'busy men', brings "the psychic dissonance associated with the onset of industrialism". The contemplative mind is overwhelmed by the noisy world’s mechanical busyness.
The stress that Google and other Internet companies place on the efficiency of information exchange as the key to intellectual progress is nothing new. It’s been, at least since the start of the Industrial Revolution, a common theme in the history of the mind. It provides a strong and continuing counterpoint to the very different view, promulgated by the American Transcendentalists as well as the earlier English Romantics, that true enlightenment comes only through contemplation and introspection. The tension between the two perspectives is one manifestation of the broader conflict between, in Marx’s terms, 'the machine' and 'the garden' — the industrial ideal and the pastoral ideal — that has played such an important role in shaping modern society."(167)

Over informatieovervloed, waarvoor al allerlei oplossingen zijn voorgesteld, maar die nog steeds niet is opgelost.

"Information overload has become a permanent affliction, and our attempts to cure it just make it worse. The only way to cope is to increase our scanning and our skimming, to rely even more heavily on the wonderfully responsive machines that are the source of the problem. Today, more information is "available to us than ever before," writes Levy, "but there is less time to make use of it — and specifically to make use of it with any depth of reflection". Tomorrow, the situation will be worse still."(170)

"In Google’s world, which is the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the pensive stillness of deep reading or the fuzzy indirection of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive — and better algorithms to steer the course of its thought."(173)

"In the half century since the Dartmouth conference, computers have advanced at lightning speed, yet they remain, in human terms, as dumb as stumps. Our 'thinking' machines still don’t have the slightest idea what they’re thinking. Lewis Mumford’s observation that "no computer can make a new symbol out of its own resources" remains as true today as when he said it in 1967."(175)

"There’s little reason to believe that this new approach to incubating an intelligent machine will prove any more fruitful than the old one. It, too, is built on reductive assumptions. It takes for granted that the brain operates according to the same formal mathematical rules as a computer does — that, in other words, the brain and the computer speak the same language. But that’s a fallacy born of our desire to explain phenomena we don’t understand in terms we do understand."(175-176)

"It’s also a fallacy to think that the physical brain and the thinking mind exist as separate layers in a precisely engineered 'architecture'. The brain and the mind, the neuroplasticity pioneers have shown, are exquisitely intertwined, each shaping the other."(176)

"Google is neither God nor Satan, and if there are shadows in the Googleplex they’re no more than the delusions of grandeur. What’s disturbing about the company’s founders is not their boyish desire to create an amazingly cool machine that will be able to outthink its creators, but the pinched conception of the human mind that gives rise to such a desire."(176)

(177) Nine - Search, Memory

Over wat het lezen doet me je geheugen. Maar gaat het puur om het onthouden of ook om het verwerken van de informatie?

"The introduction of new storage and recording media throughout the last century — audiotapes, videotapes, microfilm and microfiche, photocopiers, calculators, computer drives greatly expanded the scope and availability of 'artificial memory'. Committing information to one’s own mind seemed ever less essential. The arrival of the limitless and easily searchable data banks of the Internet brought a further shift, not just in the way we view memorization but in the way we view memory itself. The Net quickly came to be seen as a replacement for, rather than just a supplement to, personal memory. Today, people routinely talk about artificial memory as though it’s indistinguishable from biological memory.(180)"()

"The shift in our view of memory is yet another manifestation of our acceptance of the metaphor that portrays the brain as a computer. If biological memory functions like a hard drive, storing bits of data in fixed locations and serving them up as inputs to the brain’s calculations, then offloading that storage capacity to the Web is not just possible but, as Thompson and Brooks argue, liberating. It provides us with a much more capacious memory while clearing out space in our brains for more valuable and even 'more human' computations. The analogy has a simplicity that makes it compelling, and it certainly seems more 'scientific' than the suggestion that our memory is like a book of pressed flowers or the honey in a beehive’s comb. But there’s a problem with our new, post-Internet conception of human memory. It’s wrong."(182)

Carr bespreekt allerlei experimenten vanaf Ebbinghaus. Conclusie:

"Short-term memories don’t become long-term memories immediately, and the process of their consolidation is delicate. Any disruption, whether a jab to the head or a simple distraction, can sweep the nascent memories from the mind."(184)

"Repetition encourages consolidation. When they examined the physiological effects of repetition on individual neurons and synapses, they discovered something amazing. Not only did the concentration of neurotransmitters in synapses change, altering the strength of the existing connections between neurons, but the neurons grew entirely new synaptic terminals. The formation of long-term memories, in other words, involves not only biochemical changes but anatomical ones. That explained, Kandel realized, why memory consolidation requires new proteins. Proteins play an essential role in producing structural changes in cells."(184-185)

"The memory of an experience seems to be stored initially not only in the cortical regions that record the experience — the auditory cortex for a memory of a sound, the visual cortex for a memory of a sight, and so forth — but also in the hippocampus. The hippocampus provides an ideal holding place for new memories because its synapses are able to change very quickly. Over the course of a few days, through a still mysterious signaling process, the hippocampus helps stabilize the memory in the cortex, beginning its transformation from a short-term memory into a long-term one. Eventually, once the memory is fully consolidated, it appears to be erased from the hippocampus. The cortex becomes its sole holding place. Fully transferring an explicit memory from the hippocampus to the cortex is a gradual process that can take many years."(189)

Slaap is daarbij heel belangrijk, omdat de hippocampus dan een tijdlang allerlei andere dingen niet hoeft te doen.

"When our sleep suffers, studies show, so, too, does our memory."(190)

"Much remains to be learned about the workings of explicit and even implicit memory, and much of what we now know will be revised and refined through future research. But the growing body of evidence makes clear that the memory inside our heads is the product of an extraordinarily complex natural process that is, at every instant, exquisitely tuned to the unique environment in which each of us lives and the unique pattern of experiences that each of us goes through. The old botanical metaphors for memory, with their emphasis on continual, indeterminate organic growth, are, it turns out, remarkably apt. In fact, they seem to be more fitting than our new, fashionably high-tech metaphors, which equate biological memory with the precisely defined bits of digital data stored in databases and processed by computer chips. Governed by highly variable biological signals, chemical, electrical, and genetic, every aspect of human memory — the way it’s formed, maintained, connected, recalled — has almost infinite gradations. Computer memory exists as simple binary bits — ones and zeros — that are processed through fixed circuits, which can be either open or closed but nothing in between. (...) Biological memory is alive. Computer memory is not.
Those who celebrate the 'outsourcing' of memory to the Web have been misled by a metaphor. They overlook the fundamentally organic nature of biological memory. (...) Biological memory is in a perpetual state of renewal. The memory stored in a computer, by contrast, takes the form of distinct and static bits; you can move the bits from one storage drive to another as many times as you like, and they will always remain precisely as they were."(190-191)

Het biologische geheugen is ook nooit 'vol'. Herinneringen versterken elkaar. Dat is niet het geval bij de zaken die opgeslagen worden in het computergeheugen.

"What determines what we remember and what we forget? The key to memory consolidation is attentiveness. Storing explicit memories and, equally important, forming connections between them requires strong mental concentration, amplified by repetition or by intense intellectual or emotional engagement."(193)

"The influx of competing messages that we receive whenever we go online not only overloads our working memory; it makes it much harder for our frontal lobes to concentrate our attention on any one thing. The process of memory consolidation can’t even get started. And, thanks once again to the plasticity of our neuronal pathways, the more we use the Web, the more we train our brain to be distracted to process information very quickly and very efficiently but without sustained attention. That helps explain why many of us find it hard to concentrate even when we’re away from our computers. Our brains become adept at forgetting, inept at remembering. Our growing dependence on the Web’s information stores may in fact be the product of a self-perpetuating, self-amplifying loop. As our use of the Web makes it harder for us to lock information into our biological memory, we’re forced to rely more and more on the Net’s capacious and easily searchable artificial memory, even if it makes us shallower thinkers."(194)

"Culture is more than the aggregate of what Google describes as 'the world’s information'. It’s more than what can be reduced to binary code and uploaded onto the Net. To remain vital, culture must be renewed in the minds of the members of every generation. Outsource memory, and culture withers."(197)

(198) A digression - On the writing of this book

(201) Ten - A thing like me

Over Weizenbaum's ELIZA en de Turing-test.

"John McCarthy, one of the organizers of the original Dartmouth AI conference, spoke for many technologists when, in a mocking review, he dismissed Computer Power and Human Reason as "an unreasonable book" and scolded Weizenbaum for unscientific 'moralizing'."(208)

"The price we pay to assume technology’s power is alienation. The toll can be particularly high with our intellectual technologies. The tools of the mind amplify and in turn numb the most intimate, the most human, of our natural capacities those for reason, perception, memory, emotion."(211)

"In some cases, alienation is precisely what gives a tool its value. We build houses and sew Gore-Tex jackets because we want to be alienated from the wind and the rain and the cold. We build public sewers because we want to maintain a healthy distance from our own filth. Nature isn’t our enemy, but neither is it our friend. McLuhan’s point was that an honest appraisal of any new technology, or of progress in general, requires a sensitivity to what’s lost as well as what’s gained. We shouldn’t allow the glories of technology to blind our inner watchdog to the possibility that we’ve numbed an essential part of our self.(212) "()

"A series of psychological studies over the past twenty years has revealed that after spending time in a quiet rural setting, close to nature, people exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory, and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper. The reason, according to attention restoration theory, or ART, is that when people aren’t being bombarded by external stimuli, their brains can, in effect, relax. They no longer have to tax their working memories by processing a stream of bottom-up distractions. The resulting state of contemplativeness strengthens their ability to control their mind.(219)"()

"One of the greatest dangers we face as we automate the work of our minds, as we cede control over the flow of our thoughts and memories to a powerful electronic system, is the one that informs the fears of both the scientist Joseph Weizenbaum and the artist Richard Foreman: a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity. It’s not only deep thinking that requires a calm, attentive mind. It’s also empathy and compassion.(220)"()

(223) Epilogue - Human elements

"The seductions of technology are hard to resist, and in our age of instant information the benefits of speed and efficiency can seem unalloyed, their desirability beyond debate. But I continue to hold out hope that we won’t go gently into the future our computer engineers and software programmers are scripting for us. Even if we don’t heed Weizenbaum’s words, we owe it to ourselves to consider them, to be attentive to what we stand to lose. How sad it would be, particularly when it comes to the nurturing of our children’s minds, if we were to accept without question the idea that 'human elements' are outmoded and dispensable.(224)"()

"In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.(224)"()

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