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Nick Carr and Google and GPS

(Speaking of reading: part of my “score” at an independent bookstore this week was Money Changes Everything, an essay collection about the love that dare not speak its name — I am of course referring to Filthy Lucre. I strongly recommend this essay collection for libraries, book groups, and personal reading; the essays are spot-on and often painfully perfect.)

Library discussion lists have been mulling over Nick Carr’s lovely article in Atlantic, “Is Google Making us Stoopid?” Some have brought up another article, “Will GPS make us dumb?

Quite a bit rests on how we define “stupid.” The GPS article states, “But, just like with spell-checker before it, some experts believe that the guiding device gives less than what it takes away. The price we pay for the convenience, they say, could be our sense of direction.”

Well, I have never had a sense of direction. I have always been map-smart and direction-poor. So the GPS means I no longer drive with my knees, map and highlighter propped against the steering wheel. Don’t you feel better knowing that The Lady (as I call my GPS) leaves me both-hands-on-wheels, as my mother taught me? (And what is it with those states that have self-importantly passed laws against Affixing Things On Windows?)

Was I smart, and now I am dumb? Dumb, and now I am smart? (Or just dumb and dumber?)

To loop back to Nick Carr and the Web, I think he makes very good points, and has done so elegantly and with a certain respect for humanity. I don’t always agree with him, and his argument isn’t new; but part of the pleasure of his argument is that he includes himself among the affected, rather than standing on the sidelines pointing at those sublunary beings who are no longer capable of Sustained Reading of Complex Texts.

We’re all in the higgledy-jiggledy short-attention-span world, and as I wrote a wee while back, the only cure is to strap our fannies into chairs and Read as if our lives depended on it, as indeed they do.

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