All incoming SI students read Nicholas G. Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Carr posits that human interaction with (and increasingly, dependence upon) the internet – a technology -is negatively affecting our ability to concentrate and think deeply; it encourages “shallow” and superficial inquiry; and most significantly, it is literally changing the structure and function of our brains.
Wikipedia succinctly defines neuroplasticity as “refer[ing] to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking, and emotions – as well as to changes resulting from bodily injury.”
In The Shallows, Carr writes: “The recent discoveries about neuroplasticity make the essence of the intellect more visible, its steps and boundaries easier to mark. They tell us that the tools man has used to support or extend his nervous system – all those technologies that through history have influenced how we find, store, and interpret information, how we direct our attention and engage our senses, how we remember and how we forget – have shaped the physical structure and workings of the human mind. Neuroplasticity provides the missing link to our understanding of how informational media and other intellectual technologies have exerted their influence over the development of civilization and helped to guide, at a biological level, the history of human consciousness.”
Are these revelations at the heart of the surge in “brain games”? Lumosity.com markets its games as “cutting edge brain training.” Will our future selves exercise our brains in the same way we exercise our bodies? Will we actively strive to strengthen some pathways while allowing others to fade? How are we already engaging in these practices?