• Patrick McAndrew

The Smart Dumb Debate

Is technology making us smarter or dumber?  Quite a question indeed.  PBS released a video discussing the topic that you can watch below:

Kousha Navidar breaks this question into the acronym: N.E.R.D.  N stands for Network, E stands for Easily Distracted, R stands for Robots, and D stands for Dependent.  Some of these categories have a mixed bag of positives and negatives, while ones such as Easily Distracted are inherently negative.

A most common answer to this question is, “Well…it depends on how you use the technology!  If you use it to look up important, valuable information, then you are going to get smarter.  If you use it to play games and watch stupid videos, then you are going to get dumber.”

I don’t believe it to be so cut and dry.  True, we can learn a lot from technology.  I have been able to research many topics because of the Internet.  I have also been able to connect with great people through e-mail or Facebook of whom I can learn from.  And I don’t believe our desire for entertainment through technology and our smartphones will makes us stupid in the moment.

What I believe is going to kick all of us in the butt is that we only focus on everything that technology gives us without really understanding how much it’s taking away.  “Now that I have Facebook, I can stay in touch with friends!”  True.  “Now that I have this computational technology, I can be much more efficient with my time!”  True.  “Now that I can build an organ, I can save a life!”  Very true and holla to that!

We couldn’t progress as a society without the use of technology.  But we have to be mindful that it carries its own baggage.  We tend to only focus on the positives of technology because those positives are tangible, measurable.  Studies show life expectancy lasts longer, certain diseases are no longer a huge issue, communicating globally has never been easier, IQ scores are up, and technology has allowed many people to enjoy financial freedom through online businesses.

These are all wonderful things!  But they are measurable.  It’s the traits that are not so measurable that are hurting and often going unnoticed.  Suicide rates are up, depression and anxiety are on the rise, empathy markers are down, and there is an overall inability to communicate effectively with each other.  While those effects may be measurable, the causes are not.  Soft skills such as empathy, motivation, self-awareness, and active listening are suffering immensely because of excessive technology use.  Because these skillsets are difficult to measure, they often go unnoticed.

Technology has the ability to make us smarter in many ways, but its important to consider what we are risking if we give up ourselves completely to technology.  We must maintain an equal balance between technological advancement and emotional intelligence.  We must not give up our humanity to the computer.  If we do that, then we will become dumber.  We will throw our hands up and say, “Well…the computer is smarter, so why even bother?”  And then we don’t flex the thinking muscles that are so essential to our development as human beings.

This may sound butterflies and rainbows, but I would rather sound butterflies and rainbows than numbers and algorithms.

What are your thoughts?  Do you feel smarter or dumber when you use the Internet or any form of technology?  Comment below!


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