Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

What is the Web amplifying: Signals or Noise?

If you’re familiar with what the internet is doing to your brain, pay attention (which is hard today), I’m not sure if Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal – without realizing – will make it worse. He calls it “A Contract for the Web.”

There’s no doubt about the revolution the internet started in our lives. The ability to access information with unparallel speed. The possibility of connecting with people around the world. The significant shortage in time between something happens, and you know it. There’s a tremendous power in the Web to make our lives better. So, why aren’t they?

When we amplify signals in science, if they’re not clean, we also increase the noise. Unfortunately, fake news, double lives (between real and digital), political manipulations are not the noise, but the outcome of its amplification.

The noise is your gradual loss of attention.

As journalist Nicholas Carr put it in his insightful book “The Shallows,”

”It wasn’t just that so many of my habits and routines were changing as I became more accustomed to and dependent on the sites and services of the Net. The very way my brain worked seemed to be changing. It was then that I began worrying about my inability to pay attention to one thing for more than a couple of minutes.”

Doing science demands focus, alertness, patience, and the internet, with all its distracting dopamine sources, might affect the way we do science if we’re unaware of what it is doing to our brains. Beware.

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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