The Ecstasy of Communication

Is the internet altering my mind ?

I hope so.

The Guardian: “a new book claims the amount of time we spend on the internet is changing the very structure of our brains – damaging our ability to think and to learn.”

Before slamming our beloved Internet with “The Shallows”, a 250-page book by American writer Nicholas Carr, it says

“obviously, this (using a computer connected to the internet) had no end of benefits, mostly pertaining to the relative ease of my research and the simplicity of contacting the people whose thoughts and opinions you are about to read.  Modern communications technology is now so familiar as to seem utterly banal, but set against my clear memories of a time before it arrived, there is still something magical about, say, optimistically sending an email to a scientist in southern California, and then talking to him within an hour.”

However, when “Carr looks back on such human inventions as the map, the clock and the typewriter, and how much they influenced our essential modes of thought (among the people whose writing was changed by the latter were Friedrich Nietzsche and TS Eliot) … he argues that the internet’s “cacophony of stimuli” and “crazy quilt” of information have given rise to “cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning” – in contrast to the age of the book, when intelligent humans were encouraged to be contemplative and imaginative.

True,  I’ve lost my contemplative streak,  I’m frantically frenzied by the seductive impulse to click,  clicking neurons in my neural landscape,  still larger than the internet (with my cerebral cortex containing roughly 15–33 billion neurons,  linked (hopefully) with up to 10,000 synaptic connections each.)

Ah, yes, I remember the time when this wasn’t possible, when I lived trapped in my own mental cubicle, a conglomerate of prejudices, ignorance and outright boredom instilled by prejudiced, ignorant and outright boring teachers and even more ignorant, prejudiced and outright boring TV propaganda.  Just the way Eddy Bernays would have liked it.

I wanted nothing more but the Internet to happen and then it did happen. A Vortex of Latournian Litanies, hyperlinked at your fingertips.  Finally we could find out in seconds how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, we just had to look it up.

Has the internet been messing with my mind? It sure has.  It’s been an ongoing ecstasy of gobbling up and linking things that I have never been able to  link before.  And it was great fun as well. Creativity at its best.  My messed up brain still is jumping and jumping and jumping … from angels to comments from an Ex-Wall Street insider and the Global financial mafia to the shady machinations of failing empires to the Cult of less, an endless Vortex of linked data.

The Internet of Things reflects a new understanding of objects and how they are linked together and a new kind of philosophy is emerging, Object-oriented Philosophy, which makes perfectly sense. So give me more.  Lights in dark corners can be so illuminating.

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Communications and Media Senior Lecturer at SAE Byron Bay Australia

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