Is Google Making Us Stupid?  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Is Google Making Us Stupid?: What the Internet is doing to our brains" is a magazine article by technology writer Nicholas G. Carr highly critical of the Internet's effect on cognition. It was published in the July/August 2008 edition of The Atlantic magazine as a six-page cover story. The essay builds upon Carr's book The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google, in particular the last chapter, "iGod". Carr's main argument is that the Internet might have detrimental effects on cognition that diminish the capacity for concentration and contemplation. Despite the title, the article is not specifically targeted at Google, but more at the cognitive impact of the whole Internet and World Wide Web.

Carr has expanded his argument in a new book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, which was published by W. W. Norton in June 2010.

The essay was extensively discussed in the media and the blogosphere, with reactions to Carr's argument being polarised. At the Britannica Blog, a part of the discussion focused on the apparent bias in Carr's argument toward literary reading. In Carr's view, reading on the Internet is generally of a shallower form in comparison with reading from printed books in which he believes a more intense and sustained form of reading is exercised. Elsewhere in the media, the Internet's impact on memory retention was discussed; and, at the online scientific magazine Edge, several argued that it was ultimately the responsibility of individuals to monitor their Internet usage so that it does not impact their cognition.

While long-term psychological and neurological studies have yet to yield definitive results justifying Carr's argument, a few studies have provided glimpses into the changing cognitive habits of Internet users. A UCLA study led some to wonder whether a breadth of brain activity — which was shown to occur while users performed Internet searches in the study's functional MRI scans — actually facilitated reading and cognition or possibly overburdened the mind; and what quality of thought could be determined by the additional presence of brain activity in regions known to control decision-making and complex reasoning skills.

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