Technology and Evolution

This semester’s Theory and Audience Analysis course has been very enlightening, and has challenged my thought process concerning the wonderful world of technology and media.  From McGonigal, to Shirky, to Benkler, to Janier, the theories presenter by these intellectuals invoked a lot of thought about technology’s impact on society.

This week we discussed the effects of new technology on our brain, our critical thinking skills, and deep thought engagement.  I’ve always wondered if technology was dumbing us down or making us physically and mentally lazy.  For example, when I was in grade school, we were taught to do math in our head or with pen and paper. In these times kids use calculators to do the simplest of arithmetic. Why? Because it’s easier and smarter than the human brain.

Something that affects me in a similar way is Google. Any time I need information on something I don’t know about I simply Google it. I don’t think about going to the library and reading books. I rarely think critically on my own; I Google search the topic and read about other people’s thoughts on the subject, and then form an opinion around other’s thoughts. This is a little embarrassing to admit but it’s the truth.  Why think critically on your own when there are resources out there that “tell” you what to think?

So is technology changing our brain?  Nicolas Carr argues yes it is, and I agree with him.  Something very interesting Carr mentioned in his article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid” is his reading process. He says the longer he uses the web, the more difficult he finds reading long pieces of material, and the lower his concentration and contemplation. When I read that, I immediately identified.  I never read the full piece on the web. I skim the articles, only stopping to read key points.  Even when I had to write a research, I immediately went to the web, pulled articles on my topic and skimmed the long pieces (and some of the short ones) for information that related to my topic.  Carr also noted that everyone is conforming from web designers to TV stations. We are simply being programmed to not read.

I’m interested in the impact of these finds and others on the younger generations.  When I was younger, I loved to read, all the time.  But I was born in the 80s before the boom of the internet. It’s not the 2000’s and the boom of the internet is in full effect and it looks like it will be here to stay.  The things I have experienced with the internet as an adult are being experiences by young children and teenagers.  It seems that the effects of technology would have a deeper impact on them because they are experiencing these things in their developing years.

I personally feel that as the internet and other forms of technology become more prevalent and pervasive in today’s culture, society will continue to become dumb and dumber.  We become more and more dependent on machines and technology to do every day simple task.  I think of the process Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and survival of the fittest.  As the human race continues to consume these technologies with no boundaries, our brains and chemical processes change and eventually as the species continues to evolve, we will lose those genes that are inactive.  Eventually one day computer intelligence may rule the world. I know that’s a little out there, but I think we are becoming closer and closer to this possibility as technology advances.

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