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Book review: How Is The Internet Changing The Way You Think?

Did you know the internet and the web are two separate things?

How is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?
Edited by John Brockman (Allen & Unwin, 2011), $36.99

Did you know the internet and the web are two separate things? This tech neophyte didn’t – one of the many fascinating yet frivolous facts I learnt while reading this book.

This anthology of essays by scientists, academics and entrepreneurs alike is a response to a very simple question: how is the internet changing the way you think? The more cynical among us may scoff and say that’s a ridiculous question, but is it really?

From social media’s integration into our daily lives to how the internet has revolutionised the speed and efficiency with which we obtain information, the way we work and the industries we labour in are being revolutionised.

Don’t worry, it’s not all snore-inducing statements from people who think the internet is the best thing since sliced bread, or the worst thing since Telecom’s abstinence campaign.

Coldplay and U2’s recording producer, Brian Eno, delves into how the internet has restructured the way we think about a community, where it is no longer just a physical space. At the end of his piece, he very aptly summarises by concluding that his mobile has had more impact on his daily life then the internet.

There are the fanatics, of course. David Eagleman lists the six ways it could save civilisation, from sidelining epidemics to increasing the availability of knowledge.

Some are more philosophical than others. Journalist Eva Wisten questions whether we control the internet and our search content or whether it’s actually the other way around.  

The real question is what advancements will be made in the future, with scientists suggesting people are actually addicted to checking social media sites and emails, and students able to cut and paste essays found online.

Clay Shirky, for one, believes it’s too soon to measure the true impact – this will stabilise only once it begins to shape the cultural milieu of thought and not just individual behaviour, when new norms shape what technology makes possible.

At the end of the day, even if you don’t agree you might just learn something. And if nothing else it’d be an interesting question to pose at your next dinner party –plus this will give you the tools to defend your point of view.