Sunday, 26 August 2012

Is technology really making us lazy, incompetent, and poor intellectual performers?

Just today, I came across an interesting article appearing in in the Hindustan Times Weekly magazine, ‘Brunch’ dated August 26, 2012. The title of the article by Rajiv Makhni was, ‘Is Technology Making Us Stupid?’ Somehow, the article raises some rather pertinent and disturbing observations relating to the impact that technology has on the way the human mind works. Some of the observations suggest a rather disturbing possibility that because of our dependence on technology is making us have poorer attention spans, and our dependence on calculators has robbed us of even the basic arithmetical skills that our parents had!
Today,more than ever, fewer people read books, more time is spent on smart-phones,and much time is spent on laptops browsing the net. Research work has become easier, you just log on to the net and search for relevant sites, copy paste required information, and your work is done. Earlier, you had to sit in the library, and then meticulously jot down notes from a pile of books, you were more closely and emotionally connected to the work in hand, and writing everything down ensured that you  went through the whole work mentally because the entire process of writing involved your psycho-motor skills and also required an active participation of the mind! It is a given today that, ‘most children,’ according to Rajiv Makhni ‘who have access to tablets and smartphones do not read printed- page books for more than five minutes a day.’
Our dependence on laptops, smartphones and the internet has caused us to be bombarded by so much information which we cannot really handle. This explosion of information much of it useless has the effect of our information processing abilities. What we need to do is to be able to filter useful information from the useless information and this in itself requires quick thinking! Many of us glance at the information that we get from the net in a matter of seconds, and we notice that we don’t tend to spend much time sifting through the printed matter. In fact it has been noticed that webpages, blogs and power-point presentations that contain more graphics and less written material are more attractive and better assimilated than those which contain more written matter! So, then does it mean that we have shorter concentration and attention spans than our parents because of our dependence on technology? According to Rajiv Makhni, ‘ Almost 95 % of people do not read a Facebook post that is longer than nine sentences.’
The invention of the Kindle, the Tablet and the E-Book  has meant that you  have the convenience of having an entire library loaded into the internal memory. You don’t need a huge room with shelves to house the books, and, you don’t have to frequent the book shop, nor visit the library to return books! How comfortable reading a book has become! However, this convenience means that you become more lazy more home-bound as you don’t have to go out to visit a book shop or visit the library!
Fewer and fewer teachers in the more developed countries in the West are paying attention to handwriting. This  is because most of the work is done on laptops and tablets! This dependence on technology has meant that students are spending less time on handwriting practice! Add to this the fact that since you do less paper and pen work, you don’t get to write a lot, and when you don’t write a lot, your handwriting becomes really bad. Take for example- letter-writing; in the past you wrote letters on attractive sheets of paper which you then put in an envelop and posted. Often this meant writing in your best hand. Today, you send an E-Mail and your mail reaches instantly, without your having to step out of your house to post the letter, and of course you don’t have to waste time, nor do you have to spend time writing with a pen, and you have the convenience of editing what you have written without having to write on another sheet of paper, how convenient!
Social networking sites have the advantage of ensuring that you remain in touch with your nearest and dearest ones and your friends from the convenience of your bedroom. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection. You don’t have to spend time and money on travelling to meet friends and relatives! This has however made us less emotional and rather mechanical as the emotional connect is lacking when you maintain relations on a mechanical level on the net. Today, more than ever you have the convenience of   sending  a virtual greeting card on the net! The trend of posting greeting cards has passed into oblivion!
I guess we can wax and wane emotional about the past years when a handwritten note or letter carried more emotion than an E-Mail today, and the photographs that were developed out of a 35 mm. roll contained more emotion than the photographs we post on the net. In a world which depends on instant gratification, we have somehow become less emotionally connected towards each other because of our dependence on technology. We have become more lazy and complacent because technology has made us more mechanical and unfeeling than our parents were! According to Rajiv Makhni, ‘ Ever since the invention of the computer, the memory space segments of the human brain have shrunk.’ Is this cause for concern for us today? I guess, we need to be concerned, and should ensure that we are not overwhelmed by technology, and maintain our essential human character! We are not machines, we are emotional beings who need to connect to each other emotionally and not mechanically. If we forget our essentially human character, it would lead to the extinction of the human race!

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