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IBRAIN by Gary Small


Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind

by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-134033-8
Publisher: Collins

An iPod-slim, low-content perusal of multitasking, computer addiction and other maladies of the mind-machine age.

UCLA Memory and Aging Research Center director Small and freelance writer and spouse Vorgan (co-authors: The Longevity Bible, 2006, etc.) give a superficial look at the measurable effects of technology on the brain. It’s up to readers to supply missing inferences. The authors, for instance, cite a study that shows porn queries on the Internet use “generic terms such as nude, sex, and naked,” whereas less prurient researches “used more complex and varied language,” such as, presumably, “Defenestration of Prague AND Matthias Corvinus.” One gathers that this means that people looking for porn are less linguistically and mentally adept than those interested in the proximate causes of the Thirty Years War, but all we learn from Small and Vorgan is that “viewing pornographic computer images or sending and receiving sexually explicit messages can quickly turn into a habit.” No breaking news there, nor is there much to report in the authors’ observation that Digital Natives (read the youngsters of the First World) think differently from Digital Immigrants (read old-timers who know how to Google) and have, comparatively speaking, the social skills of hyenas. There are a few useful tidbits here and there—the biophysical reasons for feeling irritable after spending hours at the computer, the ways in which technology conspires to give us all attention-deficit disorder. But most of the authors’ weaning-from-addiction advice echoes far superior books—including the directly aped Send (2007), by Will Schwalbe and David Shipley—and has an alternately schoolmarmish (“Cut back on the amount time [sic] you spend using all types of technology”) and New Agey (“First choose a mantra, which can be any sound, word, or phrase that comforts you”) feel. The glossary of technological terms was apparently written for a tribe of elderly readers who have never seen a television, much less a computer—presumably not the group that the authors seek to save.

Gimmicky and glancing.