Top Menu

Scatter brains and pancake minds

A few month ago I read “Future minds” by the author of one of my favorite books on future trends, which is “Future files”. In the book, Richard Watson talks about the dangers of the internet, particularly for kids. He refers to the current youth as “screenagers” and how constant exposure to social media basically creates scatter-brains with no ability for retention and deep thought.

I found that a bit disturbing, but then found some other books (such as “Fun Inc.” and “The kids are alright”) that actually state the computers (and computer games) are actually very good for kids. Better problem solving ability, better attitude to failure, all good stuff.

Neurological consequences?

Then I picked up “The shallows” by Nicholas Carr. I will quote you the twitters I send out as I read the book and you will get the picture:

  • As we come to rely on computers to understand the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence
  • We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunter-gatherers in the electronic data forest.
  • 5 hours of Internet is enough to rewire the brain. Image what a few years has done to yours
  • Heavy use of Google has neurological consequences
  • By choosing the computer, we have rejected the single minded concentration of the book and casted our lot with the juggler
  • Brain study show that reading is NOT a passive exercise. The reader becomes the book. Do you want to become your browser?
  • Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words, now I zip on the surface as a guy on a jet ski.

A few other quotes from the book:

  • “We become, neurologically, what we think”
  • “The history of language is also a history of the mind”
  • “The Net further fragments content and disrupts our concentration”
  • “Hyperlinks distract people from reading and thinking deeply”
  • “ Long term memory is the seat of understanding”


Thinking deeply and creatively

And here is the kicker: “The Net’s cacophony of stimuli short circuits both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from either thinking either deeply or creatively. Our brains turn into simple signal-processing units, quickly shepherding information into consciousness and then back out again”.

Based on some very convincing research in the area of neuroscience about how it all works; plasticity of the brain, short term memory, long term memory, constant distraction, deep thinking, information, knowledge, wisdom, retention, IQ, attention span (how many times do you check for e-mails per day?), empathy and lots more. That alone makes the book worthwhile.

The conclusion is that we are what we think and that we are becoming like the computer, the scatter brain or what he refers to as the “pancake people”, spread wide and thin, with no depth. It is a deeply, deeply disturbing book, particularly if you have kids growing up.

Long live the book

On a positive note; it makes a passionate plea for the book as an instrument of solitary, single-minded concentration and for the need for reflection and deep thought (a book does get through to your long term memory).

That is good news for Bookbuzz and one of the reasons we think we are on to a winner. By combining the two oldest media in the world, the spoken word and the book, Bookbuzz is an effective anti dote to the scatter brain and the pancake mind and part of the “slow flow” movement that “Future minds” suggest we should make part of our daily lives.

Ever since I read “33 strategies of War” I have been trying to define our enemy. This book as made me realise that Bookbuzz is the enemy of Google. Now it is time to re-read “Killing giants”.

For more visit Ron’s blog at