Dumbed Down by Technology – Tin Foil Hat Time 16

The Article

Remember the times when a car GPS was not a common device…or a device at all and we had to follow directions to our destination?  I once had a friend who lived on a back road and we circled the country roads several times before we finally found the place.  Of course we did not have phones to call for directions either.  We had to generally get a good idea of where we were going, or else find a map of the region and follow the directions.  We would need to know how to read a map, but all too often we have now relied so much on the technology we have forgotten where we are or where we are going.  We just wait for the GPS to tell us the next turn.

Of course when it came to phones, we kept a list of numbers by the phone, but the ones which were most important we memorized.  I can still remember the phone number for my old best friend in high school because of the times I dialed those digits, but I do not think I know a single important phone number for a friend today.  We program our phones with our friend’s numbers and then always rely on the phone to dial.  We have forgotten even the most important phone numbers in our lives…including myself.

Then in math class as a student we were even barred from calculators except for very rare times when the teacher revealed the coveted box of TI-81s.  Of course near the end of our high school years calculators were even required for several classes.  I kept on holding firm to not using the devices and people were impressed by the amount of digits I could process in my head.  I even curved our high school chemistry class though I was the only one who was not regularly using the calculator.  Nowadays, the kids are given calculators at a younger and younger age, and one teen I know who is in high school had his first mandatory calculator by 6th grade.  And it is no wonder that even our affluent district is not even in the top 100 in our state.  And of course the United States has one of the lowest educational rankings in the developed world.

Technology is all around us promising to make our life easier.  Whether it is easier or not, it is clear that technology does stunt our growth.  Our brains are like our bodies and will atrophy to nothingness if we fail to use them.  And that is exactly what a lot of technology does.  We have smart refrigerators which promise to make our shopping list.  The software on our computers and smartphones will promise to organize our music, and with cloud services we never have to back up because our life is in the cloud.  The reality is with each new smart device we lose a little more of who we are as our minds and thoughts become more dependent on the technologies.  As the devices break we have a hard time thinking of life without them, so we replace them with the newer, more intrusive models.  We thus go deeper and deeper into our technology-induced stupor.  We must break the cycle.

As a high school student I was deeply impacted by a short story we read. The Feeling Of Power by Isaac Asimov is about a future where people have become so dependent upon technology that the people forget it is possible to do math by hand.  The principle character teaches the generals that it is possible to do mathematical calculations without the aid of a computer.  They finally are convinced by his arguments and plan to use such for nefarious ends.  The story goes on, and though the point is we use our technology for destruction, but the point that stuck with me for all these years is the over-reliance on technology led the people to a state where they could not function.

Sadly, I see that state coming down the pipeline.  I was a professor in my former career and I have seen some interesting trends in education, but that was the start of the technology wave.  The iPad was new, the iPhone was cost prohibitive, but I did have a few students with the coveted Blackberry phones.  When I was in college we used to study in the halls and student lounges, but my last year as a professor I began to see more students distracted by Facebook games, computer games, and other technologies.  Prerequisites went from needing to know the material to have I taken the class.  What this means is our academics has shifted from a position of knowledge to a position of entitlement.  And technology is at the center.  We rely on our GPS to get us places.  We rely on our calculators to get the right number, our refrigerator sends us our shopping list, our stove texts us when the dinner is done, and our phones have become an extension of our very minds.  It is no wonder we go crazy when our phone battery dies, and our reliance on technology will bring us to the grave.

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