What kind of brain is the Web giving us? That question will no doubt be the subject of a great deal of research in the years ahead. Already, though, there is much we know or can surmise—and the news is quite disturbing. Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, and educators point to the same conclusion: When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain.
As an author of books (they're like an iPad, but with a different kind of pages), I've long felt that our society has become more fractured in its thinking, less able to think deeply. I see it even in myself (something that Mr. Ebert cops to as well). But the study referenced above gives an indication, possibly, as to the recent downturn in the publishing world. However, as scientists love to tell us, correlation is not causation.
Still, it's interesting to think about. And yes, I noted the irony of a story bemoaning the use of hyperlinks... using hyperlinks. In all fairness, the story originally ran in the print version of Wired, and is excerpted from a forthcoming book about this topic.