by Kim Pederson…….
Ever since the Internet took up residency pretty much 24/7 within the gramatter [gray matter] of our brains there’s been talk and research and…shoot, I can’t recall what I was just thinking about. Oh, well. I’ll just go on with something else like…wait, sorry, I just got a text, a Facebook notification, an Instagram ping, several tweets, a Tumblr notice, and several emails. I’ll just be a…oh…no…something’s wrong. My mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it.
I just paraphrased, in case you didn’t get the 2001 reference, the HAL9000 as astronaut Dave slowly dismantles the memory banks of his spaceship’s sociopathic and murderous computer. As he does, HAL pleads for him to stop, saying, as above, “Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it.”
Author Nicolas Carr can feel his mind going, too. Or not going but changing. At least that’s what he says in the opening chapter of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. He writes of how, since he became an Internadict (or perhaps better, a Connectadict), his ability to concentrate for long periods has dwindled to practically zilch. “Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words,” he observes. “Now I zip along on the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
We saw another program recently — the where, what, and when which of course I cannot tell you at this moment — where the person being interviewed said that just the act of placing a cell phone on the table during dinner tends to constrain the conversation to banalities. No one, it seems, wants to “go deep” if they might be interrupted with something “more important” at any moment.
As a result of this, what may be going for all of us connected individuals, according to Carr, is “the linear, literary mind.” And the new one, he goes on, may be slouching toward monstrosity, something akin to Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, constantly croaking “Feed me! Feed me now!”
Other people have said (don’t ask me who) that at some point in the future we won’t have to learn or remember anything because when we need to know something we can just google it or, even better, stick a chip in our head (as in Neuromancer) and instantly speak another language or climb aboard a helicopter, grab the controls, and take off.
This has a certain appeal to it. It would certainly solve my embarrassment over swearing I would learn French on many occasions over the past few decades and never doing it. Carr fears that we may all turn into human HALs. I don’t see this as a danger. Think of the R&R our brains would get if we could know everything without remembering anything. And think of all the extra time we would have to be texting, Facebooking, Instagramming, emailing, WhatsApping, Vining and…what?…no…something’s…I can feel it…my mind’s…I know a song…I can sing it for you…Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer dooooooooooo……
* “HAL9000” by Cryteria. Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons.
Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.