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Rewiring Our Brains?

Is the Internet changing the way we think?

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. My mind isn't going--so far as I can tell--but it's changing. I'm not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I'm reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. 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. That's rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I'm always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

It's anecdotal, but I've noticed the same thing. I used to read many more books (and magazines, such as The Economist) than I do now. Almost all of my reading occurs on line, and I am much less able to focus than I used to be. But it's not clear whether this is an effect of aging, or new habits. More the latter, I suspect.


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Carl Pham wrote:

I can't say I've noticed a change. But what I have noticed is that the density of interesting information published has steadily gone down in the last 30 years. It's to easy to get into print (electronically or otherwise), so folks just regurgitate the same old mindless shit. The really innovative ideas or arguments are spaced out further.

Maybe that's what you've noticed -- that you're doing a lot more skimming, a lot more yeah yeah heard that before let's get to the point if you have one buster.

I noticed, for example, listening to NPR the other day, that you can mostly tune out and think of something else, and still follow the stories just fine. The story line and even the verbiage are so predictable and formulaic that you only need to listen to about every 4th or 5th sentence to follow perfectly clearly what's being said. I would not be surprised if that carries over to many of our printed information sources, too.

When I find a good book, well-crafted, with attention paid to the writing of every word, I find it's just as absorbing as ever.

FC wrote:

Yeah, now it seems that most books are really articles covered in excessive description and repetition. It's like bobbing for a biscuit at the bottom of a tub of cafeteria gravy.

I don't want to waste my time on even one unnecessary page.

redneck wrote:

I find that I have far less tolerance for clearly inaccurate 'factual' shows on television. I want to comment when I disagree or have better information.

Bruce Hoult wrote:

I read many fewer physical books than I used to, but I've been amazed how many books I've read since putting an eBook reader on my iPhone. At the moment I'm chomping through Burroughs' "A Princess of Mars" at lunchtime, waiting in line at the supermarket etc. But not just in dribs and drabs. I lay on the couch and read Rick Cook's "Wizardry Compiled" in one sitting on the iPhone. It's actually very comfortable to do so, even with 45 year old eyes.

ken anthony wrote:

I think I agree with Carl that quality has gone down, although it may just be lost in the noise. Watching a good black and white movie I think about how something similar could never be produced today (ignoring anachronisms.)

I definitely have a loss of focus and concentration but that's health and age in my case. The funny part is that if I were healthier I wouldn't be that old!!!

Human brains are a marvel of adaptability and rewiring throughout your life is something that naturally occurs even if most happens in younger years.

OTOH, I do need a new eyeglass prescription. Could it be that simple?

Josh Reiter wrote:

Uhhh, whata we talking about?

Bill Mecorney wrote:

I consider that it's my circuits adapting to a new, more volatile and condensed venue. If I were a liberal, I'd be depressed about losing all that life waiting to plod through boring shit to get to the GD point!! The Mind does much better under pressure, and is way more interested in good stuff now, quick, and did I say Quick?

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on June 25, 2008 7:38 AM.

Criminal Against Humanity, Part Two was the previous entry in this blog.

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