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The article Is Google Making Us Stupid by Nicholas Carr is devoted to the influence of the global Internet network on the users, in particular their reading and mental habits. The emphasis is also made on the impact of the Internet on the ability of the traditional media to get adapted to the changing demands and expectations of the audience. Carr presents the Internet as a dominating universal medium and discusses the issues related to artificial intelligence, cognition, and use of computers in medicine. However, the most extraordinary idea which made me change the perception of advances in technology is related to the ability of the Internet to change the way of common thinking, to reprogram the memory and to weaken the concentration.

The author ponders over the questions that have to be important for all the people prone to doing the thoughtful analysis of the contemporary realities, those who can no longer ignore the fact of enormous change that has already taken place in the human brain to avoid further risks and undesirable effects. He admits the undeniable advantages of research that can be done in minutes with the help of immense online databases and immediate access to any quote, fact or data needed. On the other hand, he claims that there are always pros and cons of every phenomenon; thus, the possibility to use the rich store of information has its price. The article helps to understand that media have never been merely passive channels of information. Shaping the process of thinking, the web restricts the capacity to concentrate and reflect.

The article makes the readers realize that staying focused has turned into a complicated task for a modern person with an iPhone, iPad and unlimited Internet traffic. It is more convenient to search for some specific piece of information online than to spend time on reading the whole book. Quick scanning and skimming of the long articles are the modern ways of acquiring information; that cannot but alarm and admonish the zealous Internet users. Television has already lost its significance as the main medium of information, and now it sounds weird that people read more than several decades ago. However, Nicholas Carr underlines that the nature of the process is completely different now. Text interpretation, profound reading, making mental connections and avoiding distractions are no longer efficient. This change can be also attributed to such kind of present-day communication as text-messaging on mobile phones.

The author reveals some secrets of physiological peculiarities of shaping the neutral circuits inside the human brain while reading and using the Internet. Furthermore, he points out the influence of the Internet on the traditional media and their transformation in order to correspond to the new perception of the Internet users. He introduces the readers to the argument that it is no longer easy for their brain to foster their own ideas, make associations or contemplate, as it is able to perceive only shortened articles and summaries instead of books.

The far-reaching effects of the Internet on our cognition processes have not been studied thoroughly yet. Nicholas Carr refers to himself as a skeptic since he has doubts regarding the age of universal wisdom and intellectual discovery with Internet domination over the mental capacities. Moreover, he is afraid of the prospect to become machinelike, with scripted actions and thoughts, following certain algorithms. The article pleads for efforts made in order to keep the human understanding of reality and the surrounding world; it scares with the pessimistic predictions, but also helps the readers look at the customary ways of acquiring information from a new angle and try not to lose the ability to think and analyze independently.

The article Meet your Ibrain by Gary Small and Giri Vorgan explores the transformations in the human brain that take place in the computer age, owing to the ever-present technological advancements that influence the way people think, communicate and behave. Video sensory and digital stimulation of brain has become a daily routine; according to the authors of the article, even an hour of web search alters the way the brain does information processing.

My perception of the Internet as of an indispensable media, all possibilities and hazards of which are not examined so far, has been affirmed with the article. A person has a natural ability to feel, think and stay focused; however, they are not aware of the factors which impact those abilities. Gary Small and Giri Vorgan refer to the so-called “continuous partial attention” that does not allow an individual to concentrate on anything for a long time (2008). The majority of modern people are addicted to technologies. Surfing the net on the laptop is only one of those things you cannot imagine your life without; there are only smartphone, smart TV, iPod, iPad which make people seemingly busy all the time.

It is a matter of crucial importance to study the brain changes caused by excessive use of technologies in everyday life. The articles of such kind can help the readers get a new angle on their favorite MacBooks and make them try to offer some resistance to the total dominance of the global network. The techno-brain burnout is to be fought with; people do need to know how to interact, have intimate relationships, establish new contacts, and have face-to-face meetings or conversations. There is no technology which can satisfy the demand for human feelings, sympathy or love.

Furthermore, I have never thought of dividing people into the group of digital natives and digital immigrants; it was a revelation for me to learn from the article that the neural networks in the brains of those people are absolutely different. Moreover, it is intriguing to know that the advance in digital culture leads to the rise of average IQ scores. Therefore, digital evolution is two-fold: it improves the multitasking and cognitive abilities, but it places the brain in the state of stress and constant crisis. From my personal experience and my observation of how modern people behave, I can acknowledge and affirm the definition of the state of the brain given by Small and Vorgan as being alert to new information every minute. The authors present physiological explanations of the self-worth sense and subsequent brain strain people get nowadays, thriving on perpetual connectivity. Distraction, fatigue and irritancy are the consequences of working online for several hours. It is frightening to think about the possible epidemic of mental stress foretold by Small Vorgan. Reshaping of the brain structure can cause impaired cognition and depression, control over the mood can become challenging; thus, it is a primary objective of the researchers to find a solution which can prevent devastating effects and resolve the existing problems related to the use of technologies.

Mastering new technologies, getting the benefits of the latest effective solutions and taking advantages of convenient search for information cannot be excluded from present-day or future life of the mankind. However, the article is a warning to the readers about the potential threats Internet causes, such as isolation, addiction to cell phones, obsession with technological advancements, and other consequences of the changes in the brain which have acquired the prefix i-. The authors insist that direct social interaction and humanity are to be a norm both for the digital natives and digital immigrants, and it is impossible not to agree with this statement.

David P. Barash in his article The Roar of the Crowd examines the human psychology and its relationship with the spectator sports, refers to the concept of behavior of big sports fans and analyzes the reasons of people’s obsession with the activities of total strangers which have no connection with their own lives. Moreover, the author of the article analyzes the social bond that appears in groups, going beyond the subject of sports. He ponders over the peculiarities of group psychology, drawing parallels between obsession with sports, military drilling at boot camps, nationalism, and selfless grouping of birds and fish.

Barash enables the readers to have a look at numerous aspects of popular culture, taking the culture of watching sports as a bright example. The sense of belonging to some group and sharing the fame and joy of victory is so important for an average person that he or she is ready to enter into any instant community in order to be a part of it. The idea that a contemporary personality in the twenty-first century still preserves the primitive need for physical involvement, shared feelings, knowledge and safety within a certain group is intriguing, although it is not absolutely new. The author made me think about the community bonds which can determine the mentality of the whole group and entail both positive and negative consequences. The emotional power of group activities can be so intense that it can cause violence, opposition or even wars.

The rooting of the sports fans is compared to the pigs’ activity in the mud, which can be offensive to those who always wear the favorite team’s colors or paint their faces with the symbols. The question is whether it is the right way to get the sense of identity if there are so many essential things in life which can make one happy and satisfied. Joining some subculture is a psychological need to identify with other people. Barash claims that he is perplexed with such a human need, although it is difficult to believe that someone can be outside any group. Being associated with the sports fans is only one of the aspects of popular culture; there are also religious, music, political, military, and various other groups that also give the sense of belonging. The article is worth reading and analyzing, as it provides not only the ideas and assumptions of the author, but also vivid examples from history, biology, and psychology. It helps to understand the motives of those who join various organizations aimed at destruction and violence, referring back to the evolutionary history.

Furthermore, the author takes a stand against fan behavior, taking the examples of racists, alcoholics, drug-addicts, gamblers, womanizers, sociopaths and other types of non-decent personalities to prove his point of view on the inappropriateness of idolizing. However, he takes only the extreme instances of admiring some celebrity or sports star, while a person who has achieved certain summits can serve as a positive example to follow for a teenager or even an adult, demonstrating the scope of human capabilities.
I share the author’s opinion that extreme fanaticism, nationalism or religiosity are always harmful, as they facilitate the sublimation of all personal emotional stresses or even have aggressiveness as a consequence; however, to my mind, all the group activities also have the capacity of remediation and subverting people from miseries and grieves, if taken wisely without excessive devotion. The article made me think about the fine line between the fanaticism and reasonable excitement in all the fields of popular culture.

The article Life on the Edge by William Dowell and other editors presents involvement in risk as a new national behavior in the United States in the new millennium. Extreme sports are taken as an example of a new attitude to life, which is gaining more and more popularity. The usual way of life nowadays would have seemed absolutely impossible for the previous generations. The authors draw a parallel between a daredevil who knows that there are no second chances parachuting and an average American. Leaping into a void, a BASE jumper acts in the same way as a day-trader does in his job or a heroin-taker lives his life.

The statistical data cited in the article indicate that approximately a third of all the households in the USA own certain stocks, however risky and unstable it is. People try not to miss any opportunity and do not hesitate to change jobs, become unemployed or spend money if they believe there are some better prospects. Skiing in the dangerous backcountry of the Rockies is a hobby of a University of Denver M.B.A., who takes risks in business as well. The article suggests that the possible reasons for such change of attitude and the need of Americans to be daring can be a decade with no ground war action and the prosperity of the country. The idea that the nation acts out the success of the USA in the manner that was impossible since the postwar period, trying to upsize the sense of itself, is intriguing and thought-provoking.

People started to experience the need to push the personal boundaries and feel the combination of fear, danger and their own skill, so the popularity of snowboarding, scuba diving, mountain biking and other kinds of extreme sports has grown dramatically in comparison with aerobics, baseball or other traditional kinds of sport. The article made me look at playing with danger from a new angle, referring it not only to practical testing of the limits of one’s own strength and endurance. It astonishes that even unprecedented rate of serious injuries and failures does not serve as a stopping factor for Americans who keep taking their achievements as a magic worth taking the risk.

The authors of the article refer to the history of the United States in an effort to find a reason for such national characteristic as risk-taking. Thus, they claim that being founded by risk-takers, America was expanded and developed by daredevils, who took chances in order to succeed. The assumption of the authors that there was no need to seek risks intentionally in previous centuries since there were too many actual hazards, which were difficult to overcome, seems reasonable. Skateboarding is easy in comparison with taking part in the war or surviving from a pandemic. Nowadays, the reduction in traditional risks, increase in life expectancy and decrease in violence rate deprive people of the possibility to feel strong excitement and terror.

Lack of challenge has turned into a problem which Americans try to resolve putting themselves in peril intentionally. This sense of adventure is peculiar only to human beings and now the whole culture of the US is constructed around taking risks. It does not pertain merely to extreme sports; it is about sex, employment, earning, investments, spending, etc. The popular culture tends to choose the quality of life as opposed to the quantity of life. Pushing beyond the rules and assuming certain risks have become the rules of the twenty first century; however, there should be certain limitations and risks not to be taken, the authors conclude, and that makes sense.

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