The Tech Effect: Are Computers Making Us Stupid?

By JR Raphael
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Technology lets us do things that once seemed like science fiction. From thoughtless navigation to limitless recollection, machines have made nearly every facet of our lives easier. But in doing so, have they also taken away skills that were once second-nature? An expanding argument suggests the internet and general abundance of technology may, in fact, be making us stupid.

The Atlantic‘s Nicholas Carr points out how his mind doesn’t work the way it used to. Reading long articles or books, he says, seems like an impossible feat now; he loses focus after a few pages. The idea of getting information so quickly and easily has seemingly shifted the way his mind works.

Carr notes how Nietzsche observed changes in his writing style with the advent of the typewriter decades ago. “Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts,” he is quoted as writing.

So could our brains again be evolving, so to speak, as a result of our dependence on modern technology? There’s certainly evidence to suggest some kind of change. A scientific study conducted a couple years ago found the ability to remember personal information — anything from a birthday to a phone number — is significantly lower in younger people who have grown up with cell phones and computers than in members of previous generations.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen the effect firsthand: I used to know the phone number of every friend, relative, and business I called with any level of frequency. Nowadays? Not so much. Outside of a few basics, I’ve inadvertently moved from storing the information in my brain to archiving it in my Outlook Contacts list.

Memory may not be the only function affected, either. An ABC News report out this week suggests the sudden ubiquity of GPS technology may be causing us to lose our senses of direction, as well as our drives to explore unknown terrain.

The question that remains, then, is if there is a true physiological shift as a result of all of this. Is technology actually making us stupid? Are we losing brain functionality with every previously mind-driven task we farm out to a machine?

Science doesn’t have a definite answer yet, but maybe you do. The floor is open to discussion — unless, that is, your short attention span and limited memory capacity have already caused you to drift away.

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