The Shallows

I am reading an important and provocative book right now.  One could also call it sobering, others might call it alarming, still others might say, “…nothing but the uneducated fear mongering of technology haters…”    However you think about it, there is no doubt, that everyone should read it.

The Shallows

And whatever your analysis of this book might be, no one can deny that we are living in a different world than we were in 1963, the year I entered the cosmos.  Remember rotary dial phones?  TV rabbit-ear antennas and tin foil to get a better picture on your black and white TV?  What about those pink pieces of paper at work?  Not dismissal notices but ‘phone messages’ that the front desk recorded for you so you could call people back on your rotary phone?  I think back to those days in the 80’s with no computers to click away on, and I wonder “What did we do with ourselves for eight hours a day?” My point in recommending this book to you is not to say, “technology” is evil, because by itself technology can be either a friend or an enemy.  The point of this book is that we can no longer believe that the “medium” i.e. the technology that transmits our information (iPhone, iPad, Kindle, computer), is not a factor in shaping the way we think, the way our brain works, and  the way it affects everything about us.  It does.    Have you noticed how distracted you can get?  Constant need to move, or the inability to simply sit still?  How reading is more difficult as you find concentrating on a printed book, page after page, seems harder to do?  Do you notice how rapidly the sound bites of information come at us, and how we must constantly be ‘searching’ and hunting restlessly for more information?    I think this book is important and there is no doubt it will determine the course of the years to come both intellectually and culturally for the world.

…Carr explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption?and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection. Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.  –Review from Eighth Day Books

The core of education is this: developing the capacity to concentrate.  The fruits of this capacity we call civilization.  But all that is finished, perhaps.  Welcome to the shallows, where the uneducating of Homo sapiens begins…Carr shows what is really at stake in the daily habits of our wired lives: the reconstitution of our minds.  What emerges for the reader, inexorably, is the suspicion that we have truly screwed ourselves.”  – Matthew B. Crawford


2 thoughts on “The Shallows

  1. Hi Michael,
    I stumbled on your blog, and was blessed and challenged by reading several of your posts. I don’t know if you remember me from my time at KCC….I am married to Jeremy. Anyway, I have not read The Shallows, but completely agree with the premise of the book. I loved the quote at the end by Crawford, who says that the core of education is to be able to concentrate. This is so true.

    I recently read a book that expounds on this a bit more in the lives of children. It is called Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of our Children by Anthony Esolen (2010). One of the chapters talks about this…filling their lives with so many things that they are physically unable to concentrate on any. Hence, they end up shallow as well. My hearts desire is to be a woman of DEEP things, faith, character, passions, and to raise children who are the same!

    Blessing to you and Mary! Your family is beautiful!!

    • Dear Julie,

      Of course I remember you and pastor Jeremy and all the others at KCC. Thank you for reading and commenting. So much of our journey of faith was incubating at KCC and in the many friendships that we developed there. Please give Jeremy my very best. And may God give us all wisdom to discern the good of technology from the evil that it can work upon us.


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