by James Patrick Kelly
Even though Nicolas Carr’s The Shallows: What The Internet is Doing to Our Brains has nothing to do with craft, it’s a book that I think every writer should know. It asserts that, largely unbeknownst to us, the Internet is reprogramming our brains and thus privileging certain cognitive abilities over others. While some of his claims are more persuasive than others, his central thesis speaks to the way we will read and think in the future.
In order to understand the implications of what Carr is saying, let’s divide his argument into three parts and consider each separately. First: Is the net really reprogramming our brains? Second: If so, then what exactly is changing? Third: Are these changes good or bad?