The European: Well, seeing that becoming aware of a problem is the first step to doing something about it, how do you believe the adverse effects you talk about can be counteracted? There is, after all, hardly a way to opt out of the modern media economy: I can’t just turn off my computer.
Nicholas Carr: My hope is that we will have a more balanced experience of the technology and become willing to turn it off for substantial periods in order to engage in more contemplative thinking. My view of recent history suggests that we won’t do that and that we will continue in the path we are on. We like to be distracted and technology keeps expanding its hold over our waking hours – for business, social or shopping reasons. The internet is a culmination of a much longer-term social trend that goes back to the beginning of mass media. People place less and less value on contemplative thinking and more on practical, utilitarian types of thinking, which are all about getting the right bit of information when you need it and about using it to answer very well-defined question. We are in a long-term process of altering our view of what constitutes the ideal intellectual life: Moving away from the ideal of conceptual thinking, reflection and taking the big picture and moving to this very utilitarian mode of constantly collecting little bits of information, not really ever wanting to back away from the flow. Society and individuals can change, but to me the trend is in the direction of interruption, distraction and shallow thinking.