Updated: Aug 6, 2020
Memory is the experience that builds you. It is what builds you as an identity. If you were mindfull, your practice of storing and retrieving things of memory is disciplined. Relate this to the discussion of the internet and technology. While these things make processes easier, faster, more efficient, it is outsourcing the responsibilities of those functions within the mind, those practices that you have once practiced consistently. These practices help in holding your experiences, those memories that shape you. The recordings, and the inventory of information can be stored within you, within your mind, within your fiber. If you are not practicing those processes, then are you a whole person, a mindfull person?
Nicholas Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” introduces the argument of the internet’s contribution to the human’s mind. A few points that I wanted to highlight after reading this article includes, “supply of thought”, “knowledge work”, and “economic interest”.
The concept “supply of thought” is that while the internet provides a wealth of accessible information, it is accompanied with side note opinion (consider this blog one), advertisement, and social influence that have a way of sneaking back into a person’s thought process way after being exposed to it’s content. If the idea worth learning about online was worth 10 cents each, let’s say we were taxed 50% of the price for the exposure to side note entertainment and opinion for whatever reason. Now, with half the amount of valuable information, the other half could be considered content clutter that sits in the reserve of a person’s mind. Carr concluded that the content clutter seems to chip away at his “capacity for concentration and contemplation”. The concern here is that the sort of disorganization and convolutedness in the way that our thoughts are managed may be dependent upon how often a person partakes in searching the internet in the traditional form of a search engine like Google.
The idea of “knowledge work” is that the new ways of receiving information here becomes a pattern or habit attributing to the instinctual thought process of the human brain. Carr compares this modern day habit to the way we tend to process information before the internet. Manual labor was involved then; actual research. Aside from that the act of reading today, it was not such a prevalent practice aside from the avid newspaper or magazine reader, or student at a university. Now, we read to communicate through text daily, to get a real time update from a friend’s post on social media. There is a good amount of mental energy and time spent in the process of converting words to information. To accommodate that reality, a natural response is to skim read at times, just get what we are looking for out of the reading and move on to the next thing quickly. There is less concentration and less investment into the to act of learning something. If you have a question, just look it up online, no need to save space in the mind to remember the idea for later, you can just look it up again if you need to. That kind of puts a dependency on internet search engines like Google.
Next, the “economic interest” of this epidemic. To fund research and inventions of artificial intelligence, there is an incentive to emphasize the need for it in society. If the overall perception is skewed to glorify the mirage of a mind as great as a computer but as real as a person, then there is a lucrative market for such. Pushing the the expectation to perform at a high levels of mental astuteness, holding a bank of knowledge ready to apply at any given time, would drive customers desperately for something that can help meet them those expectations. The side effects of social media and entertainment specifically through platforms on the internet consistently show contribution to lack of focus and scattered thought process. However, efforts to detract from this are not so publicly enforced. That along with advertisements, are the most obvious catalysts for building the internet up to hold such leverage on the modern individual’s construct of the brain.
Carr incorporates Richard Foreman’s tokened phrase “pancake people”. This is the underlying fear of the impact that internet appears to have on society as a whole. In the race to be most valuable professionally, academically, socially, somehow engagement on the platforms and search engines online hold a huge part in becoming the best versions of one’s self today. The habitual effort of it are now to come with a list of side effects including the fight for mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the idea of being a whole person. Here, your mind is functioning at its greatest capacity. It is then what governs. Less influence of what is observed through exposure, and more influence of one’s own choice. Please consider incorporating mindful practices to strengthen your own ability to function well without the dependency of things outside of yourself.