Carr, Plato, and Socrates

In Carr’s book “The Shallows” he lays out what he believes the internet is doing to our brains. Carr makes the argument that the way we process information from the internet is rewiring our brains to gather information in bits and pieces in a distracted way. He seems to feel reading books creates a deep thinker, a person able to concentrate. It is a linear process with no outside distractions. Carr believes that the “erosion of the public self” was due to the inability to pay attention. While reading on the internet we are bombarded by tiny distractions that cause us/our brains to go off on side tangents, searching for more and more information.  Carr might be on to something the internet can certainly cause distractions. How does this impact us other than the way in which we process information? The information we are now so hungry for can be false. How does this change our views of society and social interaction? There is no need to go interact with the librarian at your local library, research can be done with the touch of a button. These things can be good and bad. You do not necessarily know the quality of information you are gathering from the internet and while it is convenient it also cuts down on social interaction among other causing isolation. You then have the opposite spectrum people putting all sorts of information about themselves on line, I will call this the Kardashian problem.

Carr’s argument is not the first time that someone has wondered about how access to information affects us. Socrates made the argument against literacy. Seems absurd, you can gain so much knowledge by reading, right? Socrates’ argument is based on the premise that you should make your own observations, through social interactions, and shared learning experiences. If you rely on the knowledge of others through literacy, it could be inferior to what you yourself could learn. Socrates has a valid point someone else’s knowledge compared to your knowledge could be inferior to yours. Each person see’s things from their own perspective, no two people will have the same experience, if you are able to experience something it is probably best to have first hand knowledge.

Plato on the other hand makes the argument for literacy. While Socrates had a valid point about learning through observation and social interaction, Plato’s argument for literacy has some good points. One being you can pass down information that might otherwise have been lost. Not everybody will be able have all life experiences especially back in those days, travel was more arduous, it was a different world. You could explore other things though through literacy, you may not be able to travel to China but you could read about. Sometimes when secondhand knowledge is the best you have, it is better than nothing.

I think the key to these views lies in balance.

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