52 in 52 Book Summaries

Book Summary: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr


The Essence

As history shows, various tools that we humans use to extend our mental faculties greatly change the way we then navigate our realities. However, this time, costs run high. Using the internet has ramifications on our brains that are consistently underplayed. Contemplation, retention, reading, and even basic attention control are all negatively impacted through consistent interaction with the medium. As we give credence to the internet to ‘simplify’ our lives we also strip ourselves of the necessary faculties that make us human. The Shallow reminds us to take count of our course and be wary of how we are in many ways the technology we choose to harness.

The Shallows Journal Entry Notes:

This is my book summary of The Shallows. My notes are a reflection of the journal write up above. Written informally, the notes contain a mesh and mix of quotes and my own thoughts on the book. Sometimes, to my own fault, quotes are interlaced with my own words. Though rest assured, I am not attempting to take any credit for the main ideas below. The Journal write up includes important messages and crucial passages from the book.

• In the long run a medium’s content matter less than the medium itself in influencing how we think and act.

Key sources of cognitive overload:

1) Extraneous problem solving
2) Divided attention.These just so happen to also be the central features to the internet as an information medium.

• Efficiency of information exchange vs. Contemplation and introspection.
• The key to memory consolidation is attentiveness.
• As we cede to software more of the toil of thinking, we are likely diminishing our brains power in subtle but meaningful ways. The brighter the software, the dimer the user.
• Commonplace books: a necessary tool for the cultivation of an educated mind. The vehicle and chronicle of intellectual development.
• The new reroutes our vital paths and diminishes our capacity for contemplation, it is altering the depth of our emotions as well as our thoughts.
• Tools of the mind: The Map, Time, Internet
• The tech of the map gave humans a new and vast comprehending mind, better able to understand the unseen forces that shape his surroundings and existence. These tools for better or worse translate natural phenomenon into an artificial and intellectual conception of that phenomenon.
• The equipment takes part in forming the thoughts. Once the clock had redefined time as a series of units of equal duration, our minds began to stress the methodical mental work of division and measurement.


Extend our physical strength, dexterity, or resilience.
Extend the range or sensitivity of our senses.
Enable us to reshape nature to better serve our needs or desires.
Extend or support our mental powers.

• A net-saturated world contains: interactivity, hyperlinking, search ability, multimedia, and addictive.
• Intellectual Ethics: The message that a medium or other tools transmits into the minds and culture of its users.
• Our indulgence in the pleasures of informality and immediacy has led to a narrowing of expressiveness and a loss of eloquence.
• The net cacophony of stimuli short –circuit both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from think either deeply or creatively.
• We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of thoughts, in return for the novel or at least diverting information we receive.
• We have rejected the intellectual tradition of solitary, single-mindedness, and concentration. We have cast our lot with the juggler.
• 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.
• We crave the new even when we know that “the new is often more trivial than essential”.
The internet seizes our attention only to scatter it.
As time spent scanning web pages crowds out the time we spend reading books, as the time we spend exchanging bite-sized texts crowds out the time we spend composting sentences and paragraphs, as the time we spend hopping across link crowds out the time we devote to quiet reflection and contemplation, the circuits that support the old intellectual functions and purists weaken and begin to break apart. The brain recycles the disused neurons and synapses for other, more pressing work. We gain a new skill and perspective, but lose old ones.
• Rather than read, we now power-browse. Skimming has become our dominant mode or reading.

If you liked what you saw. Here are 3 titles that I recommend based on what was discussed in The Shallows.

  1. The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan
  2. The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr
  3. Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter

Find the book on Amazon: Print | Audio

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