After discussing “Shallows” by Nicholas Carr and then evaluating the contrasting viewpoints of Idealism and Realism, I thought to myself “where is this class heading?” I was unable to find a relationship between these two contrasting topics. “As We May Think” written by Vannevar Bush was assigned the following day. After reading the article and discussing it in class, the relationship between these very different philosophies and ideologies became apparent.
Nicholas Carr discussed the effects of the internet and how it is effecting our brain. Like the emergence of any new technology, there has to be some consequence associated with it. Carr provides an example of how he and his friends have difficulties reading, despite being scholarly and well educated individuals. I to struggle with this same issue. I view reading as a tedious task, especially if it is a topic or subject that I lack interest in. I can read an Organic Chemistry text book just fine, despite a few intermission’s, however the same could not be said about reading “The Shallows,” for example. My attention waned and scatters as I read. I used to blame this behavior to my ADHD, but Carr proposes another reason. Carr states “ technologies numb the very faculties they amplify, to the point of “autoamputation”.” By glorifying technological advancements, such as the computer and internet, we lose a very important part of ourselves. Could this be true? Could the constant use of internet be the cause of my difficulty with reading? Unfortunately, Carr does not provide scientific data to support his claims. Rather he provides quotes from Neurologists and other Scientist which lay the foundation for his numerous critiques.
Another issue that Carr brings up is that the sacred bond between the book and the reader has been severed by technological advancements. He argues that the ability to read silently, while being focused on the subject matter, is a discipline and if you are unable to read to the standards he provides, you are like a dog itching himself relentlessly. He goes on to explain that the internet allows individuals to quickly search for certain key words and phrases, therefore avoiding the bulk of the written work to arrive at your conclusion, which is a reason as to why people find reading difficult. In addition, Carr supports thinking linearly. To get to “B” from “A” you must be undistracted and focus only on “B.” Although, I do believe that the internet may have effected and rewired our brain in some way, as Carr phrases it, has it not been for the advancement of other technologies?
Vanever Bush, believes that the computer is a valuable method of storing information and provides the user the ability to access it quickly. The ideas of Carr and Bush contrast heavily on the idea of accessing information. Carr criticizes the ability to quickly access information on the internet. On the other hand, Bush argues that accessing information rapidly is more beneficial. Bush states that a person’s “excursions may be more enjoyable if he can acquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand.” His notion is one in which many would agree with him. Should one be required to read a 500 page research paper, essay, or even a book if the evidence they require is only one page?
I am currently conducting research on the synthesis of an Acid-Labile Surfactant. Like any scientist conducting research, I am faced with numerous obstacles. The obstacles are solved quickly as I am able to search on the internet for information on scientist who faced the same issues as I did. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to have to read numerous textbooks and research to derive a solution.
Another way Bush and Carr differ is the way they believe people should think. Carr emphasized the importance of linear thinking, whereas Bush believed that humans should think by forming associations. Who is right? I think it is important to bring up that Carr studied Humanities, whereas Bush studied Science. As a student majoring in Biology and who aspires to become a Physician I can argue that learning by association in much more beneficial for scientists. As I learn about different tissue types in Anatomy. As I read my textbook, I am also involved in the outside world. I think to myself, “how am I going to relate this to something so that I remember it.” I was once studying the different epithelial cells in the body, specifically Pseudostratified Ciliated Columnar Epithelium(PCCE), as I was reading I heard a man cough. PCCE is found in the trachea and secretes mucous into our body to protect it from toxins. As a person ages or when one is sick, the brushes on PCCE are damaged forcing one to cough to release mucous. After hearing this man cough, I formed an association between PCCE, cough, and trachea allowing me to not only memorize what PCCE is and where it is located, and it allowed to connect it to the real world.
Carr believed that one should read undistractedly and silently enabling one to be the book. He also describes how quite, solitary research is a prerequisite for intellectual achievement. Had I read in the way of carr, I most likely would have missed the cough, which deepened my understanding of PCCE . Therefore, preventing me to relate it to the world. Memorizing information and being able to interpret information are two distinct principles. I believe if I followed Carrs ideology, that I would not be able to interpret information, I would just be able to retain facts. Like Bush, I believe one should “build a trail of interest through the maze of materials available.”
Now where does Idealism and Realism fit into this scheme? An idealist believes in a superior and perfect method and all should adhere to it without altering it: The perfect should not be questioned. On the other hand, a realist does not believe in a perfect model. I view Carr as the idealist. He believes in a superior form of reading and all other forms are not supreme. Bush on the other and is a realist. He believes that the computer is created to mimic the capabilities of the human brain. It should replicate the mode of thinking that humans exhibit. Carr criticized the technological advancements in the 20th century because it differed from the 1000 year method of learning, which began with Plato.
After learning all this I began to reflect on who I am as an Individual and where I fit in, in this debate. Am I the realist or the Idealist. Although there are those that claim you cannot be both. I am going to argue that you can. My view on life is that of an idealist. I believe in a God, the perfect being that created every individual in this world. Perfection is around us, but we can never be perfect. I don’t view myself as the most religious individual in the world, but my spiritual views are still idealistic. My views on education, on the other hand, match those of a realist. I do not believe in a superior form of education. There are various methods that work for certain individuals. Being unable to read silently doesn’t make an individual inferior to the individual who can. Therefore, there are aspects in an individuals life that can be viewed various philosophical lenses…