Is Technology Making Us Stupid?
Science and technology progress by leaps and bounds and people increasingly rely on technology. Given the fact that hardly anyone remembers phone numbers of one’s friends and relatives, not to mention birthdays and other not really crucial information, experts and scientists as well as common people began wondering, does their weakened memory mean that people increasingly become stupid? In the article “Google Effect: Is Technology Making Us Stupid?” Genevieve Roberts explores the ‘Google Effect’ when people rely more on digital technology than on their own memory and wonders whether it is a sign that people become more stupid. Whereas Roberts does not give a clear-cut answer, the article “Will Google Make Us Smarter? Internet Experts Say Yes, But with Caveats” by Lea Winerman argues that the technological era offers a new type of intelligence rather than making people stupid altogether. Although technology made human life easier in many regards and gave access to unlimited knowledge, I think people rely on technology too much and eventually it worsens their cognitive abilities and skills, which can be called as ‘making them stupid.’
First of all, technology makes people lazy and they rely on electronic devices too much. People may not notice that because there is so much information around. Anyone who wants can enroll into online courses of any direction, can visit a virtual lecture, or download a book. It gives boundless possibilities to study and constantly learn something new. Each day people scroll their Facebook feed and click interesting articles and bits of information. It creates an illusion that one constantly learns something new and people become smarter and more knowledgeable. However, in fact such abundance of information disorients people and they do not know what to read and what to do and can aimlessly skip from topic to topic without acquiring any substantial knowledge and truly delving into a subject. It is worsened by the fact that “he average human attention span fell from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today”. Furthermore, people can attest themselves that they feel less inclined to study and they find reading boring. Because of digital media people know get used to constant visual stimulation and they want to experience it constantly. It makes people less inclined to read and more in favor of playing a game or watching a video where one should not make any mental efforts and the pastime is very pleasurable. Therefore, if one compares one’s knowledge in sixth grade several decades ago and of modern children, it will be obvious that today’s children do not know more than their parents did. They only can search it better and faster.
Another problem is that people’s experiences and knowledge are increasing with age but because of the use of digital media their cognitive abilities are getting worse because the use of digital media involves cognitive abilities differently than, for example, reading. As a result, some human cognitive abilities become less developed because people stimulate their visual and aural perception more whereas memory is involved less and people increasingly find it too hard to think about something complex and ambiguous. In her article, Roberts cites Nicholas Carr who says, “It’s through remembering that we make connections with what we know, what we feel, and this gives rise to personal knowledge”. If human memory gets worse, it means that getting knowledge gets more difficult as well. Human brain has infinite memory capacities and it cannot get overloaded with a lot of information. Therefore, people can make an effort to remember some facts and factual information instead of delegating it to Google. Yet we observe that people’s knowledge is expanding while their cognitive abilities are getting worse, especially memory. Nowadays people get used to writing down all important dates and data into their electronic gadgets. Birthdays, meetings, important events and occasional information are taken into smart phones or computers and notifications are set up to get timely warning on time. Once the equipment fails, people will feel nervous because they need to rely on memory and they do not keep this kind of information in their memory. As a result, people do not use their brain to full capacity and mental degradation will occur earlier than it could.
Furthermore, the evolution of technology makes people believe in technology more and more and doubt themselves. Knowing that computer and other digital media are faultless, people increasingly rely on them in everything. When people solve a mathematic problem and have two results – one calculated by themselves and the other by the computer – they do not hesitate and believe the computer results. Examples can range from solving mathematical problems to recording one’s memories. There is a research that shows that when people take pictures of a particular event, they remember less from it as they rely more on technology rather than allowing themselves relax and absorb new emotions. When everything is seen through camera lenses, people lose their ability to fully participate in life. Similarly, one can remember how indifferently people react now to someone’s accident on the street. Instead of offering help or calling an ambulance people often take pictures or film a video about it in order to upload it and get many likes. People began living for likes. It seems as if a meal is not tasty or even is not valid or real if it is not instagrammed. Even though technology is a result of the work of human brain, people should not assign such a substantial part their work and life to digital media because in terms of human cognitive development it looks like a step backwards.
Some people think the technology makes us smarter. They might object that all developments of technology are not a sign of people’s growing stupidity but rather a change in mental paradigm or mode of thinking. Search engines really prove that people do not need to remember a lot of factual information. Now it is more necessary to be able to quickly find the necessary information. Google is 24/7 at people’s fingertips so what the point in memorizing loads of unnecessary information. Responding to this counterargument I can say that I can agree that the mode of thinking has to change nowadays because technology calls for it. However, I do not agree that it does not affect the human brain in a negative way. Probably some new skills are developing such as synthesizing and evaluating new information. Yet it does not mean that there are no problems with attention span and perception. People find it difficult to be engaged into one activity and want to multitask forgetting that multitasking means a decrease in performance for all activities. I think the technology is there to help us, make our lives easier and more productive and yet they somehow do not let people become smarter. New technologies bring people convenience and efficiency. However, involuntarily people become too dependent on technology and it is a negative factor.
Overall, technology indeed positively influences people’s lives in many ways. Yet it would be narrow-minded to argue that there are no drawbacks to it. In my opinion, technology makes people lazy and worsens their cognitive abilities such as memory, attention span, and perception. If people depend on modern technology too much, it will bring negative results and will make people less intelligent. While technology helps people in many ways, it stimulates their visual perception too much without creating additional incentives to learn substantial knowledge. As a result, people get more superficial and infantile. Obviously people should fully enjoy the benefits of technology, yet they should more fully participate in life and do not assign such important cognitive skills as memory to digital media.