谷歌是否让我们变得愚蠢?

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卡尔在2008年7-8月号的《大西洋月刊》撰文,以《谷歌是否让我们变得愚蠢》为题,痛苦地剖析了自己和互联网一代的大脑退化历程。

 

The Atlantic Monthly  《大西洋月刊》

JULY/AUGUST 2008   2008年7/8月号

What the Internet is doing to our brains

互联网究竟在对我们的大脑做些什么

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

谷歌是否让我们变得愚蠢?

by Nicholas Carr


"Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial “brain”. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”

“戴夫,别这样,别这样好吗?住手,戴夫。你能不能别这样,戴夫?求你了!” 这个深刻异常的著名场景出现在斯坦利·库布里克的电影《2001:太空奥德赛》的片尾,乃超级电脑HAL恳求无情的宇航员戴夫·鲍曼手下留情,放它一条生路。由于电脑故障,戴夫被送入茫茫的深度外太空,陷入绝境。于是他平静而冷酷地切断控制HAL人工大脑的内存电路。“戴夫,我的思想要没了,”HAL可怜巴巴地说道。“我感觉得到。我感觉得到!”

 

I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

我也能感觉得到。过去几年来,我老有一种很不舒服的感觉,觉得有什么人,或什么东西,一直在修理我的脑袋,重绘我的‘脑电图’,重写我的‘脑内存’。根据我的判断,我的思想倒没跑掉,但它正在改变,我不再像过去那样来思考了。我读书的时候这种感觉尤其强烈。以前读一本书或一篇长文章根本不费什么劲儿,我的脑子会专注地跟随作者的叙述或议论,我会连续几个小时阅读长篇的散文,可如今我却很少能够这样了。现在,往往读过了两、三页,我的注意力就漂走了,变得烦躁不安,思绪中断,就开始找别的事情来干。我感觉好像自己总是要把漂移的心思给拽回来,专注于文本。以往自然而然的阅读活动,如今则成了一场战斗。

 

I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets’ reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)

我想我知道究竟是怎么回事。过去这十多年来,我在网上花了好多时间,在互联网这个庞大的数据库中冲浪,搜寻,有时也会在上面发布些什么。对于我这样的作家,网络就像天赐宝物,过去要在图书馆的书堆或期刊室里花上好几天做的研究,现在几分钟就能搞定。Google几下,鼠标快速地点击几下超链接,我想要的那些很能说明问题的事实与简洁精练的引语就都有了。即便不工作的时候,我也很可能是在网络的信息密林里觅食:阅读和撰写电子邮件,浏览新闻标题和博客,收听收看播客和网络视频,要么就是一个链接一个链接地瞎点瞎转悠。(超链接有时被比作脚注,但跟脚注不同,超链接不只是给你指出相关文献,而是把你驱赶到那些文献。)

 

For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

对我来说如此,对别人也是如此,网络正在变成一种万有媒介,一种信息管道,经由它,信息通过我的眼睛和耳朵进入我的思想。能够即时访问如此令人难以置信的海量信息存储有诸多的好处,人们已经对此进行了广泛的描述和足够的赞美。《连线》杂志的克里夫·汤普森曾经写道:“硅晶记忆的完美调用对于思维有着莫大的裨益。”但是这种好处是有代价的。正如媒体研究专家马歇尔·麦克卢汉在20世纪60年代所指出的那样,媒体可不仅仅是被动的信息渠道。它们提供思考的原料,但同时也在塑造着思考的过程!网络似乎正在一点点地销蚀我专注与沉思的能力。现如今,我的脑袋就盼着按照网络提供信息的方式来获取信息,即以飞速运动的粒子流的方式。过去我是个语言海洋中的深潜者,现在我好像踩着喷气滑水板,在海面上急速掠过。

 

I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”

我不是唯一一个遇到此种问题的人。当我向朋友和熟人倾诉我阅读的苦恼(大多数都是文学类书籍),许多人告诉我他们也有相似的经历。上网上的越多,就越需要十分努力才能集中精力于那些长篇的作品。一些博客博主也开始提及这一现象。专门探讨在线媒体的博客博主斯科特·卡普最近承认,他已完全放弃了读书。卡普写道:“这是怎么了?我在大学是主修文学的,曾经是那么个饥渴的大书虫。”他说道:“如果我在网上阅读太多,并不是因为我的阅读方式已经改变,比如说我只是求个方便,而是我的‘思维’方式改变了,那该怎么办呢?”

 

Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”

长期在密歇根医学院任教的病理学家布鲁斯·弗里德曼(Bruce Friedman)定期在其博客上探讨医学领域中电脑的运用情况。在其博客上,他描述了互联网如何改变了他的思维习惯。他说:“现在我几乎完全丧失了阅读稍长一点的文章的能力,不管是网络版,还是纸质版。”他在电话里十分详尽地告诉我,他的思维呈现出一种“碎读”(staccato)特性,呈现出其上网快速浏览多方短文的方式。“我再也读不了《战争与和平》了。”弗里德曼说,“我已丧失了这种能力。即便是篇幅在三、四段以上的博文,对我来说都太长,难以接收,往往只是快速扫一眼就跑。”

 

Anecdotes alone don’t prove much. And we still await the long-term neurological and psychological experiments that will provide a definitive picture of how Internet use affects cognition. But a recently published study of online research habits , conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information. They found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site. Sometimes they’d save a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it. The authors of the study report:

单凭这些轶事说明不了什么。我们仍需等待长期的神经与心理科学的实验来给我们一个清晰的图景,究竟互联网的使用是如何影响我们的认知的。但是最近发表了一项研究,伦敦大学学院(UCL)的学者耗时五年时间,考察了人们的网络研究习惯。研究表明,我们阅读和思考的方式也许正处在巨变当中。作为这个五年研究项目的一部分,学者们以两个很受欢迎的学术研究网站为对象(一家为大英图书馆,一家为英国教育联盟经营,均提供电子期刊、电子书及其他文字信息的在线阅读),通过电脑中浏览纪录来分析访问者的行为,结果发现,读者的阅读呈现“一掠而过”的方式,从一篇文献跳到另一篇文献,且极少回看已经访问过的文献。他们打开一篇文章或一本书,通常读上一两页,便“蹦”到另一个网站去了。有时他们会把长文章保存下来,但没有证据显示他们日后确曾回头再读。研究报告称:

 

It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.

很明显,用户们不是在以传统方式进行在线阅读,相反,一种新‘阅读’方式的迹象已经出现:用户们在标题、内容页和摘要之间进行着一视同仁的‘海量浏览’,以求快速得到结果。这几乎可视为他们上网正是为了回避传统意义上的阅读。

 

Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

互联网上文字无处不在,更别提手机短信风靡,因此我们比20世纪70年代或者80年代的阅读量要多得多,那时电视是我们的首选媒体。但这是一种不同的阅读方式,其背后是一种不同的思维方式,也许还有一种新的自我意识。塔夫茨大学的发展心理学家玛丽安妮·沃尔夫(Maryanne Wolf)说:“我们是什么样的人,不仅看我们读什么样的书,还要看我们怎么读书。”沃尔夫著有《普鲁斯特与鱿鱼:阅读思维的科学与故事》(Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain)。她担心,网络助长的这种将“效率”和“直接”置于一切之上的新阅读风格,或会削弱我们进行深入阅读的能力。几百年前的印刷术,催生了我们的这种能力,把阅读长且复杂的作品变成寻常之事。而上网阅读时,我们充其量只是一台“信息解码器”,而我们专注地进行深入阅读时所形成的那种理解文本的能力、那种丰富的精神联想,在很大程度上都丧失掉了。

 

Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. It’s not etched into our genes the way speech is. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains. Experiments demonstrate that readers of ideograms, such as the Chinese, develop a mental circuitry for reading that is very different from the circuitry found in those of us whose written language employs an alphabet. The variations extend across many regions of the brain, including those that govern such essential cognitive functions as memory and the interpretation of visual and auditory stimuli. We can expect as well that the circuits woven by our use of the Net will be different from those woven by our reading of books and other printed works.

沃尔夫认为,阅读并非人类本能的技巧,不像说话那样铭刻于我们的基因。我们得训练自己的大脑,让它学会如何将我们所看到的字符转换成我们所理解的语言。我们在学习和实践我们的阅读技能时所利用的媒介和技术对于塑造我们大脑中的神经电路发挥着重要的作用。实验表明,像中文这样的表意文字的读者会形成一种完全不同于我们这样的字母文字读者的神经电路。这种差别延伸到大脑的许多区域,包括那些管辖如记忆、视觉和听觉刺激的解读等十分重要的认知功能的区域。我们同样可以预知,由网络运用所编织的神经网络也会不同于阅读印刷品所编织的神经网络。

 

Sometime in 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche bought a typewriter—a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, to be precise. His vision was failing, and keeping his eyes focused on a page had become exhausting and painful, often bringing on crushing headaches. He had been forced to curtail his writing, and he feared that he would soon have to give it up. The typewriter rescued him, at least for a time. Once he had mastered touch-typing, he was able to write with his eyes closed, using only the tips of his fingers. Words could once again flow from his mind to the page.

1882 年,尼采买了台打字机,确切地说,是一个曼宁—汉森写作球。那时尼采的视力下降很厉害,盯着纸看的时间长了,就感到十分疲劳和痛苦,经常头疼欲裂,被迫减少写作,他担心不久之后就得完全放弃。但打字机救了他,至少有一段时间如此——他学会了盲打,只靠指尖闭着眼睛也能写作了,文字再次从其脑海流淌于纸上。

 

But the machine had a subtler effect on his work. One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. “Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”

然而,新机器也对其作品产生了微妙的影响。他的一个作曲家朋友为此写信给他,指出其写作风格的变化,说他原本已经够简洁的文风变得更为紧凑,更像电报。这位作曲家朋友注意到自己作曲时,音乐思维和语言常常取决于纸笔的特性,他在给尼采的信中写道:“也许新机器的运用还会让您写出新的习语。”

 

“You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler , Nietzsche’s prose “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.”

“您说得对,”尼采在回信中说,“我们的写作工具参与塑造了我们的思想。”德国媒体学者弗里德里希·基特勒认为,在打字机的影响下,尼采的文风“从论辩变成了格言,从思索变成了双关语,从华丽的言辞变成了电报式的风格”。

 

The human brain is almost infinitely malleable. People used to think that our mental meshwork, the dense connections formed among the 100 billion or so neurons inside our skulls, was largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. But brain researchers have discovered that that’s not the case. James Olds, a professor of neuroscience who directs the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, says that even the adult mind “is very plastic.” Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. “The brain,” according to Olds, “has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions.”

人类大脑具有无限的可塑性。人们过去一直认为,我们的神经网状结构,我们头盖骨下那数以千亿记的神经元之间的那种紧密联系,在我们成年的时候就已经固定不变了。但是脑科学家发现情况并非如此。乔治·曼森大学克拉斯洛高等研究院的院长神经科学教授詹姆斯·奥兹指出,成人的大脑仍“极具可塑性”。神经细胞通常打破旧有连接建立新的连接。他说:“大脑可以不断改造自己,改变其运转方式。”

As we use what the sociologist Daniel Bell has called our “intellectual technologies”—the tools that extend our mental rather than our physical capacities—we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies. The mechanical clock, which came into common use in the 14th century, provides a compelling example. In Technics and Civilization, the historian and cultural critic Lewis Mumford described how the clock “disassociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.” The “abstract framework of divided time” became “the point of reference for both action and thought.”

在我们运用社会学家丹尼尔·贝尔所称的“智力技术”的时候,即那些扩展我们的思维能力而不是体力的工具,我们不可避免地开始呈现那些技术的特性。十四世纪开始大量使用的机械钟表就是一个明证。在其所著《技术与文明》一书中,历史学家、文化批评家刘易斯·曼福德描绘了钟表是如何“把时间跟人类活动分离出来,帮助人们形成一种观念,即时间是一个由可以进行数学测量的序列构成的独立世界。”这种“抽象的可分割的时间框架”成为了人们“行动和思维的参照点”。

 

The clock’s methodical ticking helped bring into being the scientific mind and the scientific man. But it also took something away. As the late MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum  observed in his 1976 book, Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, the conception of the world that emerged from the widespread use of timekeeping instruments “remains an impoverished version of the older one, for it rests on a rejection of those direct experiences that formed the basis for, and indeed constituted, the old reality.” In deciding when to eat, to work, to sleep, to rise, we stopped listening to our senses and started obeying the clock.

钟表规则有序的滴答运行帮助产生了有条理的思维和有条理的人。但是它也带走了某些东西。正如麻省理工学院已故计算机科学家约瑟夫·魏辰堡在其1976年的著作《计算机能力与人类判断力:从判断走向计算》中指出的那样,计时器的大规模使用所产生的人们对于世界的感知“是旧有感知的一个更为贫乏的版本,因为它基于对直接经历的抛弃,而这些直接经历是形成旧有现实世界的基础,或者说就构成了原来的现实世界。”在决定何时吃饭,何时工作,何时睡觉,何时起床时,我们不再听从我们的感觉,而是开始服从于时钟。

 

The process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating “like clockwork.” Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating “like computers.” But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain’s plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level.

我们适应这些智力技术的过程也在我们用来进行自我阐释的那些不断变化的隐喻中得到了体现。机械钟表发明后,人们开始认为他们的大脑是在“像钟表一样”运行,在今天这个软件时代,我们开始认为我们的大脑是在“像电脑一样”运转。但是,神经科学告诉我们,这些变化,远比这些隐喻所表现的要深刻得多。托我们大脑可塑性的福,在生物学层面上,这种适应也在发生。

 

The Internet promises to have particularly far-reaching effects on cognition. In a paper published in 1936, the British mathematician Alan Turing proved that a digital computer, which at the time existed only as a theoretical machine, could be programmed to perform the function of any other information-processing device. And that’s what we’re seeing today. The Internet, an immeasurably powerful computing system, is subsuming most of our other intellectual technologies. It’s becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV.

互联网必将对于人类认知产生一些独特的深远影响。在其1936年发表的一篇论文中,英国数学家阿兰·图灵证明,电子计算机——尽管当时还只是停留在理论上,将能够被编程来发挥任何信息处理装置能够起到的作用。这就是今天我们所看到的情况。互联网这个难以估量的强大计算系统,正在涵盖我们绝大多数的智力技术。它正成为我们的钟表和地图,我们的印刷厂和打字机,我们的计算器和电话,还有我们的收音机和电视机。

 

When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.

每当网络吸纳一种媒体,这种媒体就被按照网络的形象重塑。网络在这种媒体的内容中注入大量的超链接、令人生厌的广告以及其他数字化噱头,用它所吸纳的所有其他媒体的内容来包围这个媒体的内容。比如,在我们浏览一家报社网站的最新头条的时候,会有声音响起,提示你收到了新的电子邮件。其结果是我们的注意力被分散。

 

The Net’s influence doesn’t end at the edges of a computer screen, either. As people’s minds become attuned to the crazy quilt of Internet media, traditional media have to adapt to the audience’s new expectations. Television programs add text crawls and pop-up ads, and magazines and newspapers shorten their articles, introduce capsule summaries, and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets. When, in March of this year, The New York Times decided to devote the second and third pages of every edition to article abstracts , its design director, Tom Bodkin, explained that the “shortcuts” would give harried readers a quick “taste” of the day’s news, sparing them the “less efficient” method of actually turning the pages and reading the articles. Old media have little choice but to play by the new-media rules.

网络的影响远远超出了电脑屏幕的界限。当人们的思维方式适应了互联网媒体百纳被式的呈现方式后,传统媒体也会做出改变,以迎合读者或观众的新期望。电视节目加入了滚动字幕和不断跳出的小广告,报刊则缩短其文章的长度,引入一小块一小块的摘要,在版面上堆砌各种易于浏览的零碎信息。今年3月,《纽约时报》便决定将其第2和第3版改为内容精粹。其版面主管汤姆·博金解释说这些“捷径”可以使忙碌的读者可以快速“品尝”当天的新闻,免去他们“不那么高效”地翻阅版面阅读文章的麻烦。旧媒体别无选择,只有按照新媒体的规则来办。

 

Never has a communications system played so many roles in our lives—or exerted such broad influence over our thoughts—as the Internet does today. Yet, for all that’s been written about the Net, there’s been little consideration of how, exactly, it’s reprogramming us. The Net’s intellectual ethic remains obscure.

没有哪种沟通系统能像今天的互联网这样,在我们的生活中发挥如此众多的作用,或者说对我们的思维模式产生了如此广泛的影响。然而,在所有这些关于网络的著述中,很少有人思考互联网究竟是如何在对我们进行重新编程。网络的知识伦理仍然模糊不清。

 

About the same time that Nietzsche started using his typewriter, an earnest young man named Frederick Winslow Taylor carried a stopwatch into the Midvale Steel plant in Philadelphia and began a historic series of experiments aimed at improving the efficiency of the plant’s machinists. With the approval of Midvale’s owners, he recruited a group of factory hands, set them to work on various metalworking machines, and recorded and timed their every movement as well as the operations of the machines. By breaking down every job into a sequence of small, discrete steps and then testing different ways of performing each one, Taylor created a set of precise instructions—an “algorithm,” we might say today—for how each worker should work. Midvale’s employees grumbled about the strict new regime, claiming that it turned them into little more than automatons, but the factory’s productivity soared.

就在尼采开始使用打字机的几乎同时,一个叫做弗雷德里克·温斯洛·泰勒的认真的年轻人带着一块秒表来到了费城的米德维尔钢铁厂,开始了一系列具有历史意义的实验,旨在提高钢厂机械工人的工作效率。在征得米德维尔钢厂老板的同意后,他招募了工厂的一批工人,让他们在各种工作台上工作,记录下他们的每一个动作以及耗费的时间,还有机器的运行情况。他随后把每一个工作分解成为一系列的微小步骤,并且测试完成各个步骤的不同方式。由此,泰勒给每个工人制定了精确的工作指南,今天我们可以称之为“算法”。米德维尔的雇员对这种严苛的新体制颇多抱怨,认为这把他们变得跟机器人并无二致,但是工厂的生产力大幅攀升。

 

More than a hundred years after the invention of the steam engine, the Industrial Revolution had at last found its philosophy and its philosopher. Taylor’s tight industrial choreography—his “system,” as he liked to call it—was embraced by manufacturers throughout the country and, in time, around the world. Seeking maximum speed, maximum efficiency, and maximum output, factory owners used time-and-motion studies to organize their work and configure the jobs of their workers. The goal, as Taylor defined it in his celebrated 1911 treatise, The Principles of Scientific Management, was to identify and adopt, for every job, the “one best method” of work and thereby to effect “the gradual substitution of science for rule of thumb throughout the mechanic arts.” Once his system was applied to all acts of manual labor, Taylor assured his followers, it would bring about a restructuring not only of industry but of society, creating a utopia of perfect efficiency. “In the past the man has been first,” he declared; “in the future the system must be first.”

这样,在蒸汽机发明一百多年后,工业革命终于迎来了它的哲学理念和哲学家。泰勒的严格工业步骤,或者“机制”——他自己喜欢这么叫——在全国范围内为工厂主们所欣然采纳,并及时推广至全世界。为了追求最快速度、最高效率、最大产量,工厂主们采用时间—动作研究来组织生产、配置工人。正如泰勒在其1911年那篇广为称道的论文《科学管理之原理》中所指出的那样,这样做的目的是要为每一件工作找出并采用“最好的方法”,从而“以科学来逐渐取代机械行业中的那些基于经验的实用方法”。泰勒向其追随者保证,一旦其机制运用于所有手工劳作,将不仅导致产业的重构,还会导致社会的重构,创造出一个完美效率的理想之国。他宣称:“过去人是第一位的,今后机制将是第一位的。”

 

Taylor’s system is still very much with us; it remains the ethic of industrial manufacturing. And now, thanks to the growing power that computer engineers and software coders wield over our intellectual lives, Taylor’s ethic is beginning to govern the realm of the mind as well. The Internet is a machine designed for the efficient and automated collection, transmission, and manipulation of information, and its legions of programmers are intent on finding the “one best method”—the perfect algorithm—to carry out every mental movement of what we’ve come to describe as “knowledge work.”

今天,泰勒的机制仍然在大量使用,它仍是工业生产的伦理。现在,托计算机硬件和软件工程师们对于我们智力生活所拥有的巨大本领的福,泰勒的伦理开始主宰我们的大脑领域。互联网就是设计用来进行信息的高效自动收集、传播和操控的机器。其庞大的程序员队伍致力于找到“一个最好的方法”——最好的算法——来实施我们称之为“知识工作”的每一个脑力活动。

 

Google’s headquarters, in Mountain View, California—the Googleplex—is the Internet’s high church, and the religion practiced inside its walls is Taylorism. Google, says its chief executive, Eric Schmidt, is “a company that’s founded around the science of measurement,” and it is striving to “systematize everything” it does. Drawing on the terabytes of behavioral data it collects through its search engine and other sites, it carries out thousands of experiments a day, according to the Harvard Business Review, and it uses the results to refine the algorithms that increasingly control how people find information and extract meaning from it. What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind.

位于加利福尼亚山景地区的谷歌总部,就是互联网的最高教堂,在其围墙之内所奉行的宗教就是泰勒主义。谷歌首席执行官埃里克·施密特说,该公司是“一家围绕测量科学建立起来的公司”,致力于“将一切系统化”。据《哈佛商业评论》报道,谷歌利用从其搜索引擎和其他网站收集来的数以兆兆(TB)字节的海量行为数据,每天进行数以千计的实验,并将结果用来深化和完善其算法,这些算法越来越控制着人们如何找到信息并从中抽取感兴趣的内容。泰勒所运用于体力劳动的那一套,谷歌正在运用于脑力劳动。

 

The company has declared that its mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It seeks to develop “the perfect search engine,” which it defines as something that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.” In Google’s view, information is a kind of commodity, a utilitarian resource that can be mined and processed with industrial efficiency. The more pieces of information we can “access” and the faster we can extract their gist, the more productive we become as thinkers.

谷歌还宣布,其使命是“将全世界的信息组织起来,使之随处可得,随处可用。”它试图开发“完美的搜索引擎,”即谷歌所说的能够“准确领会你的意图,并精确地回馈给你所要的东西”的搜索引擎。按照谷歌的观点,信息是一种商品,一种可以以工业效率来进行挖掘和处理的实用资源。我们能接触到的信息越多,提取其精髓越快,我们就会成为一个越高产的思想家。问题是,它会使我们越变越蠢吗?

 

Where does it end? Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the gifted young men who founded Google while pursuing doctoral degrees in computer science at Stanford, speak frequently of their desire to turn their search engine into an artificial intelligence, a HAL-like machine that might be connected directly to our brains. “The ultimate search engine is something as smart as people—or smarter,” Page said in a speech a few years back. “For us, working on search is a way to work on artificial intelligence.” In a 2004 interview with Newsweek, Brin said, “Certainly if you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you’d be better off.” Last year, Page told a convention of scientists that Google is “really trying to build artificial intelligence and to do it on a large scale.”

它最终会走向何处呢?舍奇·布林和拉里·佩奇这两个才华横溢的年轻人,当初是在斯坦福大学计算机科学攻读博士学位的时候创立了谷歌。他们多次谈到想把他们的搜索引擎变成一个人工智能,一个像HAL那样的机器,可以直接连接到大脑。在几年前的一次演讲中,佩奇说道:“最终的搜索引擎是像人一样聪明的东西,或者比人更聪明。对于我们来说,进行搜索的研究就是进行人工智能的研究的一种方式。” 2004年在接受《新闻周刊》采访时,布林说:“如果全世界的信息都连在你大脑,或者一个比你大脑更聪明的人工脑上面,那你的境况就会非常好。”去年,在一次科学家大会上,佩奇说谷歌是“真的试图构建人工智能,并且大规模地构建”。

 

Such an ambition is a natural one, even an admirable one, for a pair of math whizzes with vast quantities of cash at their disposal and a small army of computer scientists in their employ. A fundamentally scientific enterprise, Google is motivated by a desire to use technology, in Eric Schmidt’s words, “to solve problems that have never been solved before,” and artificial intelligence is the hardest problem out there. Why wouldn’t Brin and Page want to be the ones to crack it?

对于拥有巨额现金可以支配,雇用着一批计算机科学家的这两个数学奇才来说,有这样的雄心壮志是很自然的,甚至是令人敬佩的。作为一家本质上的科技公司,按埃里克·施密特的话来说,谷歌有着利用技术的动因,“来解决以前从未得到解决的问题”,而人工智能则是尚未解决的最为困难的问题。布林和佩奇怎么会不想当解决这个难题的人呢?

 

Still, their easy assumption that we’d all “be better off” if our brains were supplemented, or even replaced, by an artificial intelligence is unsettling. It suggests a belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of discrete steps that can be isolated, measured, and optimized. In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.

然而,他们这个如果我们的大脑得到人工智能的补充甚至取代我们就会境况很好的假设却令人不安。它表达出一种观念,即智能是机械过程的产物,是一系列可以孤立、测量和优化的离散步骤。在谷歌的世界里,我们上网时所进入的这个世界,没有任何空间让人们进行模糊的沉思。歧义不是一个通向独到见解的出口,而是一个必须修正的程序错误。人脑只不过是一台落伍的电脑,需要更快的处理器和更大的硬盘。

 

The idea that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines is not only built into the workings of the Internet, it is the network’s reigning business model as well. The faster we surf across the Web—the more links we click and pages we view—the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link—the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It’s in their economic interest to drive us to distraction.

这种我们的大脑应当像高速数据处理器那样运行的想法不仅被根植于互联网的运行当中,它也是网络商业活动的主导模式。我们在网上冲浪的速度越快,点击的链接越多,浏览的页面越多,谷歌和其它公司就获得越多的机会来收集我们的信息,提供给我们越多的广告。商业网络的大多数所有者都有着经济利益在里面,来收集我们从一个链接快速跳到另一个链接时留下的点滴信息——我们留下的信息越多对他们越好。这些公司最不愿意做的事情就是鼓励你悠闲缓慢的浏览或者全神贯注的思考。让我们注意力分散符合他们的经济利益。

 

Maybe I’m just a worrywart. Just as there’s a tendency to glorify technological progress, there’s a countertendency to expect the worst of every new tool or machine. In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” They would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.” Socrates wasn’t wrong—the new technology did often have the effects he feared—but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom).

也许我只是杞人忧天。正如人们有着美化技术进步的倾向,人们也有担心每一种新工具或新机器的坏处的另一种相反倾向。在柏拉图的《对话 费德罗篇》中,苏格拉底表达出其对于文字发展的不满,担心当人们开始依赖文字来替代原来储存于脑海中的知识的时候,用对话中另外一个人物的话来说,人们就会“不再运用他们的记忆力,从而变得健忘”。而且由于他们能够“无需指引就可以获得大量信息”,他们就会“在通常实际上十分无知的情况下被认为很有知识”,他们的脑子里就会“塞满虚假的智慧而不是真的智慧”。苏格拉底说的没错——新的技术通常带来它所担忧的后果——但是他过于短视,他没有预见到在很多方面,写作和阅读会传播信息、激发新思想、拓展人类的知识(甚至智慧)。

The arrival of Gutenberg’s printing press, in the 15th century, set off another round of teeth gnashing. The Italian humanist Hieronimo Squarciafico worried that the easy availability of books would lead to intellectual laziness, making men “less studious” and weakening their minds. Others argued that cheaply printed books and broadsheets would undermine religious authority, demean the work of scholars and scribes, and spread sedition and debauchery. As New York University professor Clay Shirky notes, “Most of the arguments made against the printing press were correct, even prescient.” But, again, the doomsayers were unable to imagine the myriad blessings that the printed word would deliver.

15世纪古腾堡的印刷厂也曾让人恨得咬牙切齿。意大利人文主义者Hieronimo Squarciafico担心书籍随便可以得到会导致智力懒惰,使人们“不那么用功”,从而削弱人们的脑力。另有一些人则认为,这些花费颇少印刷出来的书籍和大开本报纸会削弱宗教的权威,贬低学者和书吏的工作,散布煽动性和不道德的言论。正如纽约大学教授克雷·谢奇所说:“反对印刷厂的大部分观点都是正确的,甚至是很有先见之明。” 但是,再一次,这些灾难预言者没能想到印刷能够给人们带来的无数福祉。

 

So, yes, you should be skeptical of my skepticism. Perhaps those who dismiss critics of the Internet as Luddites or nostalgists will be proved correct, and from our hyperactive, data-stoked minds will spring a golden age of intellectual discovery and universal wisdom. Then again, the Net isn’t the alphabet, and although it may replace the printing press, it produces something altogether different. The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking.

因此,对,你应该对我的怀疑论调持怀疑态度。也许那些认为互联网的批评者不过是阻碍技术进步的勒德分子或者怀旧主义者的人会被证明是正确的,从我们超级活跃、填饱数据的大脑将会涌现一个知识发现与普遍智慧的黄金时期。然而还有一点,网络不是字母,尽管它也许会取代印刷术,网络产生全然不同的东西。那种一页一页的印刷纸张所带来的深入阅读是很有价值的,不仅仅是因为我们从作者的话语中获取到了知识,而是因为这些话语在我们大脑中所激起的知识共鸣。在持续且不受干扰的阅读一本书籍、或者任何沉思活动所给我们打开的那一片宁静空间中,对于作者所陈之事,我们进行自己的联想,做出自己的类比和推断,形成我们自己的思想。正如玛丽安妮·沃尔夫所说,深入阅读跟深入思考密不可分。

 

If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture. In a recent essay, the playwright Richard Foreman eloquently described what’s at stake:

如果我们失去那些宁静的空间,或者用“内容“将它们填满,我们将牺牲掉不仅我们自身还有我们文化中一些非常重要的东西。在最近的一篇文章里,剧作家理查德·福尔曼非常雄辩地刻画了面临的风险:

 

I come from a tradition of Western culture, in which the ideal (my ideal) was the complex, dense and “cathedral-like” structure of the highly educated and articulate personality—a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West. [But now] I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self—evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the “instantly available.”

我所受的熏陶是西方文化传统,在这种传统中理想(我的理想)是教育程度非常高的、能说会道的人所构成的十分复杂、浓厚、像教堂一样的结构——男人或者女人,其内心都有一个他/她所构建的整个西方传统的独特版本。[但是现在]我在我们中间(包括我自己)看到我们内心那种复杂的浓厚系统已经被一种新的自我所取代,这种自我在信息过载和立等可得的技术压力下不断演化。

 

As we are drained of our “inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance,” Foreman concluded, we risk turning into “‘pancake people’—spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.”

当我们“内在的浓厚文化传承库藏”被排干后,福尔曼总结道,我们就在冒成为“‘薄饼人’的风险——在我们仅需轻点鼠标按键就跟庞大的信息网络相连的时候铺得太广太薄”。

 

I’m haunted by that scene in 2001. What makes it so poignant, and so weird, is the computer’s emotional response to the disassembly of its mind: its despair as one circuit after another goes dark, its childlike pleading with the astronaut—“I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid”—and its final reversion to what can only be called a state of innocence. HAL’s outpouring of feeling contrasts with the emotionlessness that characterizes the human figures in the film, who go about their business with an almost robotic efficiency. Their thoughts and actions feel scripted, as if they’re following the steps of an algorithm. In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.

《2001:太空奥德赛》里的那个场景让我备受煎熬。这场景之所以如此深刻、如此怪异,是那台计算机对其大脑被拆解所做出的情感反应:当一个接一个电路断电时它所表现出来的深深绝望,它在宇航员戴夫面前那孩童般的恳求-——“我能感觉得到!我能感觉得到!我害怕!”——还有它最终回复到只能称为纯真的状态。HAL的情感发泄跟电影里人的那种冷漠无情形成鲜明对照,那些人以机器人般的效率干着手头的活计。他们的思想和行为让人感觉到是在遵循预先设定的指令,好像在按照一个算法的步骤在行事。在2001年的世界,人们已经变得如此像机器,以至于大多数人物结果都成了机器。斯坦利·库布里克黑色预言的实质在于:当我们依赖电脑作为理解世界的媒介时,实际上是我们自己的智能蜕变成了人工智能。

 

原文链接:http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google

 

 

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