Technology has helped human societies advance in many ways. For example, it has radically changed the treatment of medical problems and it has also allowed us to communicate over great distances in a matter of milliseconds. However, technological advances do not only bring about positive changes as they also generally come with a number of unforeseen drawbacks. Indeed, one fundamental disadvantage of many pieces of modern technology is that they can actually make us less intelligent. Here we present you with 10 pieces of technology that make you dumber.
Hearing damage, bad posture, dry eyes, conjunctivitis, obesity and feelings of isolation are some of the negative effects of watching television excessively. The studies of Mexican epidemiologist Jose Antonio Flores North Barrientos found that the above symptoms are generally exacerbated in people under the age of 21. He argues that many people do not seek medical help until they are suffering from severe side-effects.
One study conducted into the effect of Twitter on working memory (the skill of recalling information and using it) at the University of Stirling in Scotland found that the social media site had a dumbing down effect on users. Psychologist Dr. Tracy Alloway concluded that the site’s famous 140 character limit on messages resulted in users employing limited amounts of intellectual effort to process or interpret information. She pointed out that, as with all muscles, the brain needs regular stimulation and exercise to remain healthy.
Some argue that instead of helping bring us together by improving communication, modern mobile phones are actually increasing social isolation. The boundaries of traditional landline telephones were well defined as they only had one simple use, namely communication with the person on the other end of the line. However, smartphones, due to their ability to connect to the internet, instant messaging services and applications, have left many users fixated with using social media sites and sending messages.
When French journalist Franck Frommer published the book "How PowerPoint Makes You Stupid” he clearly wanted the title speak for itself. Frommer believes that the Microsoft program seeks to hypnotise the public and limit reasoning. Speaking to Spanish newspaper El Pais, he said: “The user does not feel responsible because they have not created the presentation. Images that have nothing to do with what people are saying are often incorporated simply as decoration. The presentation demands a dark room or auditorium in which the audience attentively watches the screen and consumes 15 slides in half an hour. However, when you leave the room, saturated by images, you have forgotten almost everything.”
Email and instant messaging
Email and digital instant messaging services have become everyday tools of the modern world. They allow us to communicate rapidly and efficiently and can be used in many areas of work and social life. However, the inventors of such technologies would probably be shocked at how some people choose to use their gifts to the world. For example, it is not uncommon to see people separated by no more than a couple of metres communicating via email or instant messaging service instead of actually communicating verbally.
Electronic personal organisers
Electronic organisers that come with many modern devices can be seen as a direct threat to human memory. Our ability to remember numbers, dates and events is now seemingly dependent on mobile phones, computers and other appliances which store data for users. Some people do not even bother to try and memorise their own telephone number preferring instead to list it in their own contacts list.
According to many specialists, the ease, speed and range of the internet adversely affects the intellectual capacity and attention span of users. Elena Mato, a specialist in clinical psychology, said teenagers who excessively use the internet can end up suffering overstimulation, psychological disorders and loss of privacy. Others argue that the internet has weakened our collective intellect due to the vast amounts of false or misinformed content circulating on websites.
A study by researchers at Ohio State University found that those students who most frequently used the social network Facebook had lower academic results. Aryn Karpinski, one of the researchers, said: “We cannot say that the use of Facebook leads them to study less and achieve worse grades, but we found a relation between both things. If Facebook did not exist, some students would possibly find other ways of avoiding studying and they would continue to receive bad grades. However, the decline in average daily grades could also be because those students spend too much time socialising online.”
Video games can prove highly addictive. Indeed, many relationships, such as those between parents and children and between couples, have been adversely affected by individuals spending too much time playing computer games. In extreme cases, addiction to the virtual worlds offered by video games can prove life-threatening. In 2011, a coroner’s court heard how 20-year-old Chris Staniforth of Sheffield died from deep vein thrombosis caused by sitting still while playing his Xbox for at least 12 hours a day. In a statement released after the death, Xbox manufacturers Microsoft said: “We recommend gamers take breaks to exercise as well as make time for other pursuits."
The remote control has made us all less physically active by the very fact that we do not have to get out of our chairs to change channels on the television. On a mental level it has also given us the capacity to turn ourselves into television zombies, aimlessly zapping through hundreds of channels without the will or desire to invest time in watching a programme for more than a couple of minutes.