Book Review: The Shallows

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our BrainsThe Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas G. Carr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is hard for me to rate because it contains a lot of research in a field I am not familiar with. There is probably contrary research out there. So as I read more I could downgrade this book.

However, this book was an eyeopening exposure of how the internet is impacting our lives. Carr is witty and learned. He cites a lot of studies from various fields of science and social science. He gives the background to how technology has changed our lives throughout history. He addresses some of the main technological innovations of our age, such as Google, Kindle, and cell phones. He talks about how computers and the Internet can literally change our brains. He discusses how our use of computers is causing us to think of human beings as computers with an emphasis on efficiency and productivity. But as we become more dependent and more like the computer we lose parts of our humanity. He talks about how new mediums will change us, even if they are giving us the same information as before. The book would give any reader a lot to think about.

Carr however, is not anti-internet or a computer hater. He brought out some of the positive impact it is having. The book was not a screech against all things associated with the World Wide Web. But it was a warning. He thinks that the dominance of the Internet is making us a superficial and distracted society. He doesn’t think that the Internet must lead us there. But it leans that direction and if we don’t fight it we will end up worse off for it.

As a pastor and Christian, the book made me think hard about my use of computers in general and the Internet specifically. The reason is that as a pastor I am supposed to think deep and slow about some great truths. This is exactly what Carr says the dominance of the Internet is keeping us from doing. It also made me think about prayer and reading long, hard books. Where do long periods of uninterrupted prayer fit in an internet driven life? Where do long periods of reading in theology come from when every few minutes you get a new email? It also made me think about nature, God’s general revelation that declares his glory. I do not think we can truly appreciate God without an appreciation for his creation. Yet the computer can sever us from the created world.

There were many thought provoking statements he made throughout the book that have made me think more carefully and deliberately about how and how often I use the internet and the computer.

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