David Ellis, Ph.D., course director of the department of communication studies at York University in Toronto, said, “Several years ago I walked into my fourth-year class and, in a fit of pique, announced I was confiscating everyone’s phone for the entire three hours. I later upped the ante by banning all digital devices in favor of pen and paper. Some unusual revelations have emerged since then including some happy outcomes from going digital cold turkey. The students in my courses are there to learn about telecom and internet technologies. On the surface, it looks like a perfect match: hyperconnected digital natives acquiring more knowledge about digital. If only. The sad truth is they suffer from a serious behavioral addiction that makes it pretty much impossible for them to pay attention to their instructors or classmates.
That technology will, in the long run, affect our ability to think is increasingly inevitable. Technology, contextually, is all forms of innovation and inventions that result from the application of scientific theories. At the dawn of the technological era, it was rather farfetched that man would one day depend on technology for the most simple tasks in his everyday life.
Fast forward to the present, man has gotten hooked to technology-fueled by accelerated infrastructure development, accessibility of information, and an increasingly mobile world. Despite its numerous advantages, technology comes at the expense of many very foundational aspects of life notably; physical-social interaction, the natural environment, jobs, and even peace with the advent of technologically superior weapons. However, all too commonly, we forfeit the fact that technology has compromised a very fundamental aspect, the ability to think!
The technology gradually nullifies the necessity to think and has become a very profound threat to this very sacred and unique feature of mankind. We ought to remember that technology, machines, and continuous innovation are all for the primary function of problem-solving. In the case of humans, the need to solve problems is what spurs our thought process into full gear. Man’s very evolution was founded on thought, and the need to solve problems is the reason homo sapiens significantly developed larger brains that made them distinct from their chimpanzee or orangutan cousins. The current trends show that man has no problem with being dependent on his own creation and therefore, the burden of problem-solving and therein his thought process falls onto the computers and other technologies he has created. The more this dependency grows, the more we start to realize a utopian idea where a man gives up all decisions such as what to wear, the restaurants he wants to eat from and even what name to give his offspring to technologies.
“Science and technology were developing at a prodigious speed, and it seemed natural to assume that they would go on developing. This failed to happen, partly because of the impoverishment caused by a long series of wars and revolutions, partly because scientific and technical progress depended on the empirical habit of thought, which could not survive in a strictly regimented society.”
George Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984).
In the short term, the danger is that technology will soon infiltrate spaces that can only work beneficially with organic human thinking. A case in point is the justice system such as courts, police, and government. Dispensation of justice is a reserve for human thinking because only a human being can process when to dispense deterrent or correctional justice. This unique trait derives from a special organic blend of human emotion and logical thinking as well as contextual environmental thinking. The transfer of uniquely human thinking in places they’re most needed is, therefore, a big gamble. The long term danger lies in the fact that unabated, technology would reduce our ability to think about the decisions we make because we develop a strong trust in what it can do and yet still with it, distrust in our own thinking. Think of the number of times you have had to cross-check with a calculator, even when you are sure about your brain processed result.
Technology also reduces our engagement with the problems. Problems are questions that require a solution as an answer. A problem could be range from a simple calculator problem to a corrupted government that needs to be taken down. Problems help man to think with the aim of getting a solution. With technology, solving problems all becomes a burden. Computers only require a set of input commands and the questions we would have had to struggle to answer by thinking over a long period of time are within seconds solve. This is a threat to our capacity to think because it “fires” our brains. Instead of thinking, they resort to inputting information to all forms of technology to do the problem-solving. The effects of this are glaring. Man becomes mentally lazy, untrained, and redundant. His ability to think deteriorates and he begins to feed off technology rather than his own thoughts.
“The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough to notice what is happening.”
George Orwell. “Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)”.
Confrontation with our problems also involves the ability to care. With modern technology, we are bombarded with so much information that our ability to care has been subconsciously de-capacitated. When you open a Twitter account, there’s a corruption scandal in the Capital, a bombing in Southern Iraq, ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, an oil spill, and a new fast-spreading contagious virus. The man at the sight of this literally resigns. It is no wonder that the modern generation responds to problems with memes, this all too well illustrates resignation rather than playfulness. We hence lose the basic ability to care and thus find no reason to think for solutions.
I reiterate my support for the fact that dependency on technology, if unchecked, will affect how a man thinks and deteriorate human thought as we know it is allowed to spiral upwards. We have the ability to bring technology into better alignment with our goals and values but it’s concerning me that we still seem to be going in another direction.