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“The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price.As the media theorist Marshall Mc Luhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information.
BEN SHATTUCK I pushed through the crowd, towards the music.
The smell of soap, beer, and smoke filled the room.
(Unlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind.
The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded.
” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages.
Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy.
I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text.
Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial “ brain. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do.
When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.
Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand.