"Dazzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture" Nicholas Carr writes in his latest piece in Wired Magazine on the impact of evolving technologies on our learning, lives and culture. "What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting," Carr contends.
Carr develops an interesting argument; one worth contemplating. There is a strong case to be made for managing technology as we do all the tools we have at our disposal. I'm not sure we as a culture, or as a society, have figured out exactly how to do that yet, especially with respect to emerging technologies and the sheer abundance of all kinds of information. We are a little infatuated right now, and our consumer culture is feeding the frenzy. There is something to be said for employing the classical tradition of balance.
Reading deeply and examining books or comprehensive, thoughtfully developed and reasoned text will always be an intellectually challenging pursuit, and an absolutely essential skill. When compared to the cursory skimming of bits and pieces of data and text that Web 2.0 encourages and almost celebrates, it doesn't take one long to realize that much of what is happening has been fleeting; it can't be sustained as is and it will self-correct in time. What the impact of this "revolution" will ultimately be and what it will all look like on the other side, though, is anybody's guess. I do believe we are at the dawn of another seismic shift (See Empires of the Mind) in our culture, but I'm not sure I buy into all of Carr's argument.