• 《Is Google Making Us Stupid 》——part 1 - [翻译]

    2009-11-17

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    http://www.blogbus.com/gaojuan-logs/51562826.html

    "Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial “ brain. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”

    I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

    I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets’reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)

    For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

    I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”

    Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace  anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”

    Anecdotes alone don’t prove much. And we still await the long-term neurological and psychological experiments that will provide a definitive picture of how Internet use affects cognition. But a recently published study of online research habits , conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information. They found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site. Sometimes they’d save a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it. The authors of the study report:

    It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.

    Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.” Wolf worries 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 the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

    Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. It’s not etched into our genes the way speech is. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains. Experiments demonstrate that readers of ideograms, such as the Chinese, develop a mental circuitry for reading that is very different from the circuitry found in those of us whose written language employs an alphabet. The variations extend across many regions of the brain, including those that govern such essential cognitive functions as memory and the interpretation of visual and auditory stimuli. We can expect as well that the circuits woven by our use of the Net will be different from those woven by our reading of books and other printed works.

     

     译文:

    “戴夫,停手,请你停止好吗吗?停下来,戴夫,你会停下来吗,戴夫?”在一个著名的并且离奇深刻的场景——斯坦利·库布瑞克的《2001:太空之旅》趋于片尾中,超级计算机HAL恳求无情的宇航员戴夫·波曼。波曼已经由于机器故障被带入深度空间,他正平静、冷酷地切断控制HAL的人造大脑的内存电路。“戴夫,我的思想正在消失。”HAL说,显得很无助,“我能感觉到,我能感觉到。”

    我也能感觉到,在几年前,我也有过这种不舒服的感觉。我感觉某个人或者某种东西摆弄着我的大脑,重新定位神经线路,重新编程记忆。我的思想没有消失,至今我还能说出来,但是它正在变化。我现在的思考方式与我曾经的思考方式不同。当我阅读的时候,我能强烈感觉到这点。曾经,沉浸在一本书或者一篇长的文章中,对我来说是很容易的。我的思想会被叙事或者论点的转折深深吸引,并且能够花上几个小时反复阅读长篇的散文。然而,这种情况再也很少见了。现在我在看两三页后注意力就开始游离了。我变得烦躁,没有思路,开始寻找其他的事情做。我感觉好像我总是在迫使着我那任性的大脑回到文章中。深度阅读在曾经看来很自然,可是现在却变成了一场战争。

    我想我知道什么正在发生。在十多年间,我花了许多的时间上网、搜寻和浏览,有时发表一些文章。作为一个作家,网络对我来说就是一个天赐之物。研究表明,曾经在图书馆里查找的一堆堆文章和期刊需要花数天时间,现在能需要几分钟就可以完成了。通过一些谷歌搜索,一些快速超链接点击,我就能得到能说明问题的事实或者我需要的简洁精辟的引言。甚至在我不工作的时候,我很可能在网络的信息丛中搜寻、阅读和写邮件,浏览文章标题和博客网站,看视频和听播客,或者只是很流畅的从一个链接点到另一个链接。(不像人们有时比作的脚标,超链接不仅仅指向相关的信息,它们还驱使你进入到那些信息中。)

    对我来说,就和其他人一样,网络正在成为一种普遍的媒介,它成为大部分信息的流通管道。这些信息从我的眼睛和耳朵流动到我的思想。能够立即进入如此不可思议的丰富的信息库的优点有很多,并且它们已经被广泛的描述和正确的称赞。《连线》杂志克里夫·汤普森写过,“硅片记忆的完美唤起能成为思想的一个巨大的恩惠。”但是这个恩惠来得很有代价。就像媒体理论主义者马歇尔·麦克卢汉在二十世纪六十年代指出的,媒体不只是被动的信息通道。他们提供了思考的材料,同时也影响思考的过程。网络好像能做的是摧毁我的注意力和深思的能力。我的思想现在只是按照网络发布信息方式——快速移动的信息流,来吸收信息。曾经,我是知识海洋的潜水员,而现在我就像喷射雪橇上的家伙一样快速的移动到水面上。

    遭遇这种情况的不只有我一个。当我对我的朋友和认识的文学人士提及我关于阅读遇到的问题时,大部分人都说他们也有相同的经历。他们使用网络越多,在集中精神阅读长篇的文章时就越困难。我追踪的一些博客作者也开始提及这种现象。最近斯科特·卡普写了一篇关于在线媒体的博文,他也承认他几乎完全停止阅读书籍了。他写道:“我在大学的时候是文学专业的,并且我曾经非常热衷于读书,但是,什么发生了?”他推测关于这一问题的答案,“如果我在网络上阅读不完全因为我阅读方式的改变,还因为我思维方式的改变,我只是寻求方便,又会怎样呢?”

    布鲁斯·弗雷德曼定期发表关于计算机在医学界应用的博文,他也描述网络如何改变了他的精神习惯。在今年早些时候,他写道,“我现在已经几乎完全丧失了阅读和专注与一篇稍长的文章的能力,不论是在网络版还是纸质版。” 弗雷德曼是在密歇根州医大从教很长时间的病理学家,他在和我电话交谈的时候详细的说明了情况。他说他的思维呈现出一种片段式的特点,表现在他从许多在线资源中快速扫描短篇文本文章的方式。他承认:“我再也不能阅读《战争与和平》了,我已经丧失了那种能力。甚至在博客上如果超过三四段内容,我就觉得太多而不能使自己集中精神。我就会略读。”

    仅仅只有奇闻轶事不能证明全部。我们仍然在期待长期的神经学和心理学的实验给我们提供关于英特网的使用如何影响我们的认知的决定性的画面。但是最近伦敦大学的学者们指导出版的《在线学习习惯的研究》提出:我们可能刚好处于改变我们阅读和思考方式的海洋之中。作为五年研究计划的一部分,这些学者们通过对两个受欢迎的研究点(一个是由英国图书馆运营的,另一个是由英国教育联盟运营。)中浏览者的电脑日志记录下浏览行为,他们提供了期刊文章、电子书以及其他写作信息资源的入口。这些学者们发现人们在使用这些站点的时候呈现出一种略读活动形式,从这个资源跳到另一个资源,并且很少返回到他们已经浏览过的站点。他们有代表性的阅读不多于一两篇文章或者书,然后退出跳到另外一个站点。有时,他们保存一篇长的文章,但是并没有重新回到文章并且认真阅读的迹象。这些作者们的研究报告如下:

    很显然,用户在线阅读不是传统意义上的。实际上,有迹象表明,一种新型的阅读形式正浮现出来。用户“超级浏览”横向的浏览标题、内容页和摘要,快速的达到搜寻目的。好像是用户们通过在线阅读,从而避免传统意义的阅读。

    幸亏只提及到了英特网上随处可见的文本,而没有提及手机上的文本信息的受欢迎程度。我们现在可能比二十世纪七八十年代电视作为我们的媒介选择的时候阅读得更多。但是这是一种不同的阅读,并且这种不同依赖于不同的思维方式,甚至有可能是一种新的自我感觉。塔夫茨大学的发展心理学家、《普鲁斯特与鱿鱼:阅读思维的科学与故事》的作者玛莉安.沃夫说,“我们的不同不只我们阅读的内容,还有我们阅读的形式。”网络提升的阅读风格把“效率”和“即时性”凌驾于一切之上,沃夫担心这一风格可能会削弱我们的深度阅读能力,而深度阅读能力又一般在早期技术、印刷术、做长而复杂的散文工作司空见惯的时候出现。她说,当我们在线阅读的时候,我们趋向于“仅仅解码信息”。而我们专注地进行深入阅读时所形成的那种理解文本的能力、那种丰富的精神联想,在很大程度上都丧失掉了。

    沃夫解释,阅读不是人类的天生技能。它不像我们说话一样印入我们的基因。我们必须告诉我们的大脑怎样将我们看到的象征符号转换成我们能够理解的语言。并且媒体或者我们在学习和练习阅读技艺中使用的其他的技术在塑造我们内部的神经回路中起着重要的作用。实验证明表意文字(比如中文)的阅读者开发了阅读的一种精神线路,而这种线路与我们当中那些采用书面语言字母表的人的线路是很不相同的。这种变化通过许多大脑区域进行扩展,包括那些控制我们记忆以及对我们视觉和听觉刺激进行解释的关键认知功能。我们也能预料,通过使用网络形成的线路与那些通过阅读书籍和其他印刷作品形成的线路是不同的。

     

     

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  • You did a great job. I suppose what you need is only to polish the words. Nice Job!
    回复Lan说:
    My English is poor,but I will try my best to do it.Thank you!
    2010-12-16 22:33:01