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Are we losing our minds?

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That seems to be the fear in the Atlantic Monthly's piece "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" by Nicholas Carr. The concerns he outlines will certainly not be new to you.

Carr notes that he often finds that he has trouble concentrating on or going deep into reading material the way he once used to. Hours of time spent reading and cruising online seem to have created a new habit, a form of hyper-skimming, that pulls up information but doesn't allow for a lot of deep thinking. It's an interesting piece, well worth reading and I think most of us will feel at least a twinge of uncomfortable recognition while reading. However, there are three things that keep me from panicking:

One: The number of letters I get every week from Monitor readers wanting to share their own reading enthusiasms. Some of these people are amazing. I have no idea how they manage to read so many books a month or even a week. Or how they get their hands on the news one so rapidly. Or who the ones are who dive so enthusiastically into very challenging and/or lengthy books. All I know is that somewhere out there – depressing surveys to the contrary – a fair amount of serious recreational reading is going on.

Two: My unscientific survey of what people read on the Boston subway line I travel. Borges, Erdrich, Pynchon, DeLillo – and that was just last week.

Three: The recent release of the new Peavar-Volokhonsky translation of "War and Peace." Just in my own little circle of personal friends and acquaintances I know seven people who snapped it up immediately, read it, and loved it. And I myself, hyper-skimmer that I have become, found that with that book in my hands I was still capable of slowing down and losing the world around me one thousand percent, just the way I used to do many, many years ago.

So I won't say that hyper-skimming is not a problem – just that I don't believe that anything that it may be doing to us is irreversible.

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