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Losing our minds to the web

An influential new American book claims that the internet is damaging teenagers’ brains and our ability to think. But the web’s real dangers lurk elsewhere

By Evgeny Morozov   July 2010

In 1889 the Spectator published an article, “The Intellectual Effects of Electricity,” intended to provoke its Victorian readers. Robert Cecil, the prime minister, had recently given a speech to the Institution of Electrical Engineers in which “he admitted that only the future could prove whether the effect of the discovery of electricity… would tell for good or evil.” The authors attacked him for being soft on electricity. Its material effects were welcome—“imagine the hundred million of ploughing oxen now toiling in Asia, with their labour superseded by electric accumulators!”—but its intellectual effects were not.

Electricity had led to the telegraph,…

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