Will technology make people smarter – More and more research is appearing on how technology distances us from the real world and makes us live in “bubbles” where we only see what we want.
During the last 150 years, technological advances have been constant and have led human beings to evolve at a speed never seen in history. You only have to take a look at the development of the 20th century to realize that in just 70 years, it went from trying to fly to reach the Moon. This tireless technological race has brought about a parallel evolution of people themselves, who have increased their life expectancy and increased their IQ, a trend that has, however, slowed down in the generation of digital natives.
Faced with this situation, numerous voices have emerged warning that inappropriate use of Information Technologies (Internet, social networks…) may limit cognitive development. This translates into people becoming less intelligent and open-minded.
The American writer Nicholas Carr is one of those voices and has been for a decade when he already warned of the danger of entrusting us to Google. He has recently published Superficiales: what the Internet is doing with our minds, a book in which he explains in detail the consequences of the massive use of current technology.
The generation that does not surpass their parents
The ideas that Nicholas Carr expounds and picked up in a BBC News interview supported by another book entitled The Digital Cretin Factory, written by French neuroscientist Michel Desmurget, director of research at the French National Institute of Health.
In this volume, he explains how the so-called Flynn effect, consisting of the fact that the generation of children always has a better IQ than their parents, has maintained throughout the last century. However, with the aforementioned digital natives, this trend stopped, which for Desmurget himself somewhat dramatic since he shows that there something in technological advances that not being used correctly.
“Several studies have shown that when the use of television or video games increases, IQ and cognitive development decrease,” says Michel Desmurget in an interview, to which he adds: “The main foundations of our intelligence affected: language, concentration, memory, culture (defined as a body of knowledge that helps us organize and understand the world). Ultimately, these impacts lead to a significant drop in academic performance.
To this, we must add that the excessive use of screens also worsens family interactions, which seem essential for the emotional development of people, the quality of sleep and the ability to concentrate.
unable to pay attention
Therefore, the ideas of this neuroscientist are at the same stage as those that Nicholas Carr exposes in his latest work, where he has no qualms about ensuring that the constant and continuous use of technology steals the attention of the human being and makes you “think worse”.
This is not something the brain does voluntarily, but it is all due to the massive amount of data that a person receives when browsing the Internet or using a social network. According to this writer, the information arrives fragmented in multiple formats (videos, photos, texts…), to which constant notifications must be added.
“We have learned to be constantly stimulated to collect bits of information all the time, but we don’t feel stimulated to take things easy, to concentrate, to focused on something, to pay attention,” he says the interview for BBC News, where he also states that “the highest forms of thought—contemplation, reflection, introspection, even deep breathing—require us to pay attention, that we eliminate distractions and interruptions. However, internet technology does the opposite: it constantly interrupts and distracts us. Consequently, we are losing our ability to engage in the highest forms of thought available to us as humans.”
Dependence on social media and the Internet
It should noted that at no time do the authors speak of putting technology aside returning to a previous stage since it is not only necessary but is capable of substantially improving people’s lives. However, this does not mean that the problems it entails should not be pointed out, especially when it was thought that the Internet would make human beings more intelligent in the past.
On the contrary, Nicholas Carr considers that we are becoming “less intelligent, more closed-minded and, in a certain way, intellectually limited by technology.”
And is that technology makes us more comfortable. It offers us everything we require in seconds. In this sense, more and more users of social networks use them for information when their role is far from being a reliable source of information. This means that these users will only read or see what they want, assuming that what appears on the screen is reality.
However, it is nothing more than “their” reality since the big technology owners of social networks are not looking for readers but customers. And as such, they offer them what they want through complicated algorithms and increasing use of artificial intelligence. “That makes us live in more polarized societies, that we think more emotionally and less rationally, even when it comes to very complex issues,” explains Nicholas Carr.
“We are becoming aware of how notifications try to ‘hijack’ our attention. If designers use it to their advantage, they can make us spend more time on their product, draw our attention to certain elements through things like screen brightness and other little tricks.” These words are from Randima Fernando, co-founder with Tristan Harris of the Center for Humane Technology, from which they intend to reverse “human degradation” and “realign technology with our humanity.”
Both scientists believe that the limited human mind can no longer control technology and that this is something that “market forces” are taking advantage of to maintain trends and increase sales.
Thus, the technological user exposed to multiple stimuli that, turn, limited since they distance him from the real world and make him live in a bubble where he sees and reads what he wants. This results in worse cognitive development, but also in the possibility of modifying human behaviour.
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