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Technology’s making us stupider

November 27, 2010

Photo by Jacob Stone

By Georgiana Sampson, Guest Contribution

Take a quick moment to look around you, right now.What do you see? Probably a television, computer or something else that has a microchip and runs on electricity. Some people see this as a good thing, signifying that access to information has exponentially increased along with the mass production and distribution of technological goods. Technology has allowed humanity to dive deep into the ocean, go out among the stars and improve life here on the ground. However, one must pause and reflect on this. Have scientists gone too far?

Every day there are thousands of men and women with college degrees and stockpiles of knowledge that’s hard to even imagine,working feverishly on some doo-dad or gadget designed to make something easier, faster or unnecessary. At the rate that new products are being made, futures like IRobot or The Matrix no longer seem quite so far fetched. The very scientists creating things to make our lives easier are being crushed by the increasing demand for more; and, every time something new comes out, the creators are already designing the next version of it. Human culture, at least in developed countries, has changed to the point where it revolves around technology. It is the center of daily existence for most people. They feel lost without their phone to keep them connected or their iPod to play music for them. All this ease has allowed people to use less of their brain less often. We’re so spoiled by all the gigabytes and terabytes that the greatest computer of all, the one that birthed all the ideas now floating into our homes and pockets is going to waste: our brains.

Example: Digital clocks are quite commonplace now, almost everywhere. A lot of young kids can’t read analogue-faced clocks because they have no idea how. They’ve become so used to digital, the numbers being screamed so blatantly at them that it would be an insult to human intelligence to misread it, that the big hand and little hand mean nothing. Most people are taught how to read a clock in grade school, if not pre-K. So why have teachers stopped? Because all the analogue clocks are being replaced with digital. There’s no need to teach children a skill they’ll probably never use. The same goes for the use of calculators. For upper-level maths and gigantic numbers, it is perfectly acceptable to use a device designed for exactly such a purpose. However, when a person cannot complete simple math problems, such as 6×8,without plugging it in, there’s an issue. What if there isn’t a calculator handy? What will they do then? Flounder, most likely, which wouldn’t happen if they could do it by hand.

It is very true that technology has improved many things, among them the processing and storing of information as well as gaining access to it. Colleges and other institutions used to have entire buildings to house their paper work, now able to be contained in a single hard drive instead. Right along with that, computers have enabled students to use materials from halfway across the world to cite in their research, something impossible for earlier generations.

The list continues, much too long to recount in one sitting. Contrary to saying that technology should be abolished and everyone should become Amish, most people believe that we should simply put a limit on the amount of technology included in our everyday lives along with buckling down and doing some stuff the hard way. Use a calculator in math class? Go ahead and work out a problem by hand first, then check it. This will give your brain exercise, which it probably is in dire need of, and also allow you to be confident in your answer, as well as your ability to get it yourself. A healthy balance of man and machine is needed here, and the scale is just starting to over-balance. It is up to us to even it out again, to exercise the muscle that spawned all the things we now take for granted. If we don’t, it’s quite possible that we’ll be helpless without it, and who wants to be completely dependent on a machine to do everything for them?

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