Is tech making us stupid?

Updated on Aug 25, 2012 05:47 PM IST

Our gadgets auto-complete, remember for us, and think for us. What’s to become of our brains? This statements have been pouring in from scientific studies across the world.

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Hindustan Times | ByRajiv Makhni

The above statements have been pouring in from scientific studies across the world. This is their essential premise: that multitasking between emails, Facebook, Twitter, TV, mobile phones, tablets and gaming consoles have made us perpetually distracted and a scatter-brained race. Not only is the new era of information technology making us less creative and more muddled – it’s put into place a permanent change in the way our brain maps information, how it retains it, which parts are used how and even the size of the brain is going through a metamorphosis. Very scary, right? Wait, there’s more.

Shallow and fried

The first news of this came when a series of articles and a book was released by Nicholas Carr. His argument was that ever since the advent of the Internet, we as a human race have been becoming more stupid. His book (The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember) made some very compelling points. Taking himself to be the guinea pig, Carr said that over the last few years the way he read and absorbed books was completely changing. He said, “I was losing my own capacity for concentration and contemplation. Even when I was away from my computer, my mind seemed hungry for constant stimulation, for quick hits of information. I felt perpetually distracted.”

Carr’s theory found many followers. A huge number of them agreed and said that the way they were thinking, reading, absorbing and learning was becoming disjointed. Every part of knowledge assimilated was not absorbed into the brain but kept at an arm’s distance on a computer. Some of his findings were startling:

People who are continually distracted by emails, updates and other messages understand less than those who are able to concentrate on one thing.

People who juggle tasks are often less creative and productive than those who do one thing at a time.

As the number of links in an online document goes up, reading comprehension falls.

As more types of information are placed on a screen, we remember less of what we see.

The richness of our thoughts, memories and our personalities hinges on our ability to focus the mind and sustain concentration.

When we’re constantly distracted and interrupted, our brains can’t forge the strong and expansive neural connections that give distinctiveness and depth to our thinking.

When we have to juggle between mobiles, computer screens and emails, our thoughts become disjointed, our memories weak.

And while Carr was criticised for concentrating mainly on the written word, his books, articles and conclusions struck a chord with tech users across the world.

The dumb-ass generation

Once this all-new thought process was introduced and accepted, the floodgates were open. Studies showed that people who were given a computer to solve a problem could not retain the problem-solving skills they had used a week earlier, while the same skills used without a computer were recalled by users even after six months. Another study showed that children introduced to computers started scoring lower grades. In fact, if you Google this subject right now, you will get thousands of articles and studies that prove with precision how technology is neurologically shaping us to become more stupid in the future.

The greatest scare that is out there is that the digital generation, children born in the last 10 years, will have reduced metal abilities as they grow up. They’ll be adults with brains that jump all over the place, ninnies with the memory retention of a goldfish, with brains that have shrunk to the size of a pea. They won’t be able to sit still for long, concentrate or come up with creative innovations and ideas. New thinking, innovation and creativity in this world as we know it is likely to die in the next 50 years!

What exactly is going on here? Wasn’t technology, the Net, Google and all other tools supposed to make us smarter? Wasn’t the fact that we now have reams of information supposed to kickstart a new creative and innovative process? Weren’t we going to be a smarter race due to technology? When did the process reverse?

The smart truth

Book this now: Who is to say that reading a page printed on paper is more superior?
Book this now: Who is to say that reading a page printed on paper is more superior?
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