Clipping #33 — Juggler’s Brain

In The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived, Peter Whybrow challenges the impact of technology on our brains. It can divert us from using our imagination, the emotional imagery evoked in the mind that commands the brain’s full engagement.

Whybrow cites Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, who sees the Internet chipping away at our capacity for concentration and contemplation. Although it is possible to think deeply when surfing the Net, says Carr, it tends to encourage “cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking and superficial learning.” Ouch! That hits close to where and how I live.

The Net is seductive and potentially addictive, says Carr, and over dependence on it can foster a juggler’s brain that can “degrade our mental ability, dividing our attention and interrupting the brain’s smooth processing, encoding, and storing of information.” Fertile imagination enables us to assimilate new knowledge and adjust to change, adds Carr, and complexity and not knowing are the prelude and stimulus to knowing.

As a near addictive Net user, my take away from this is to get my data from the Net, then let it stimulate my thinking beyond what I find there. The knowledge that I gain from the Net can be a stepping-stone to go beyond what I find there. It can stimulate me to search for more, to allow my imagination to stretch my thinking to the kind of innovation that energizes my brain to guide me to be the person my worldview sources me to be.

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