The saddest movie death scene? Possibly.
"In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That's the essence of Kubrick's dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence." So says Nicholas Carr within his Atlantic article, and it is hard to disagree with much that he says. In fact, his own experiences (along with those of his friends mentioned in the article) regarding deep reading reflect my own troubles. As an English major who actually enjoys reading, it has become increasingly difficult to just sit down and focus; my mind is always somewhere else, and it takes a lot more effort than should be required to get me back in the right frame of mind. Much of this can be blamed on the Internet's suspect code of ethics: through various avenues, specifically "content" on top of more content, it is in their (insert company here) "economic interest to drive us to distraction." More page views equal more dollars.
Within the article, Carr cites Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University. She makes two excellent points: that "deep reading... is indistinguishable from deep thinking," and that "the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts 'efficiency' and 'immediacy' above all else, may be weakening our capacity" for deep reading / deep thinking. This is troubling, especially its implications on schools. Is the answer to disregard any sort of deep reading activities? Hopefully not. How any English class will survive if that is the option is beyond me. Literacy is still just as important as ever, yet it doesn't mean that one needs to be able to read, but that one needs to read well, i.e. comprehend and analyze a given piece. In my class, we have begun to read A Christmas Carol. My mentor teacher has the kids read in-class, but with an audio version playing along, and she will occasionally stop the recording to ask the students various questions. This provides students with short bursts of reading, along with informal assessments to see if they are following along and comprehending the material. The downside to this, however, is that if this were utilized with every reading, it would not only become stale, but it would slow down the reading process considerably. It allows everyone to read at the same pace, but gifted students may not feel properly challenged.
One thing that isn't mentioned in the article, however, is something else entirely: that our intelligence is declining as we evolve. In a recent study, Stanford researcher Gerald Crabtree posits that "evolution is, in fact, making us dumber — and that human intelligence may have actually peaked before our hunter-gatherer predecessors left Africa." However, Crabtree adds that "no matter how deteriorated our intellectual abilities may have become over the millennia, advancements in technology will someday render these changes insignificant." Enter Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google's founders who believe that "if you had all the world's information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you'd be better off." It's terrifying to think how prescient Kubrick was with 2001.