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Jun 10, 2010


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Jon A Firebaugh

From your link above to The Shallows What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains :
"Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways."
Let's take the first sentence:
"Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences."
That's one of the most self evident statements I've ever heard. It's a no brainer, and in no way profound. Of course your brain changes! The mere fact that you can recall an event of ten minutes ago demonstrates that in a prima facia manner.
Let's take the second sentence:
"The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways."
Actually this is also not profound or groundbreaking. No advanced technology is required to reroute neural pathways. Physical practice to develop "Muscle Memory" is a natural method to reroute or strengthen neural pathways.
Follow the link below to learn about a physical therapist who through physical manipulation only has had fantastic results rehabilitating people's "neural pathways" making "Brain-Body" connections.
"The Anat Baniel Method for Children (ABM) is scientifically based and the results have been validated by medical doctors. The practitioner of this method uses gentle, innovative techniques to help the brain of the special needs child form new neural connections and patterns that take the child beyond their current limitations."
This is not new technology as such..... just advanced understanding of how our neural pathways can be adjusted.

I have not read the book, but what first jumps out to me in the two statements that I have quoted is that this book is making claims that are not based in fact, but opinion, and that it claims some new neural routing due to technology that is merely the everyday working of the brain. The fact that we know more about the neural workings of the brain is in no way evidence that technology has any more effect on our thought processes than everyday experience. If I watch an unretouched video and a person is shot and killed, or I watch a completely digital creation that is an exact duplicate of the un-retouched video, my brain will create the same experience "neural pathway". The new technology of the digital creation undifferentiated from the first visually will not alter my neural pathway in a different manner regardless of the technology. What the technology can do is provide reinforcing feedback faster, thus enhancing recall. That's the advance in learning that multimedia technology provides....Multi-sensoral feedback.
I also do not concur with the thesis that due to technology : "We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection." The invention of hyperlinks allows the gathering of an abundance of information of astounding volume that would take tens if not hundreds times longer if all of it had to be researched in the stacks of a library. Does this make the library obsolete? Of course not, at least until all of the info in the library is digitized. I submit that people that read the headlines in the past still read the headlines online. Those who read a story in depth, with proper scepticism have in the past sought out corroboration, and will still due so online. Those with who cling to ideas at face value, without questioning the basic premises of the proffered idea, will continue to act the same way in spite of technology. This is the fundamental failure of our educational system: The inability to think critically when offered the choice between the easy sugar coated idea, and one that requires analysis.

Ed Cone

The book actually cites plenty of research on brain plasticity and the way different technologies shape the brain and habits of thought.

It's an interesting read, too.

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