An anonymous reader writes "There's a fascinating duel going on between two Harvard-associated authors, Steven Pinker and Nicholas Carr, on the topic of the Net's influence on the mind. In a New York Times op-ed, Pinker criticizes Carr's argument, as laid out in his new book The Shallows, that our use of the Net is encouraging us to become distracted, superficial thinkers. The Net and other digital technologies 'are the only things that will keep us smart,' writes Pinker. In a response on his blog, Carr tears apart Pinker's argument, claiming that Pinker's examples should actually make us even more worried about the possible 'ill effects' the Net is having on our minds. Carr concludes, 'We're training ourselves, through repetition, to be facile skimmers, scanners, and message-processors — important skills, to be sure — but, perpetually distracted and interrupted, we're not training ourselves in the quieter, more attentive modes of thought: contemplation, reflection, introspection, deep reading, and so forth.' Behind the debate is the deeper controversy over whether the human brain is fundamentally adaptable ('neuroplasticity') or genetically locked into patterns of behavior ('evolutionary psychology')."
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