Technology is Changing Your Brain, and that is Bad News.
Our world is run by technology, specifically the digital technology now. Most of us live on the Grid. You are able to read what I’m writing here precisely because you are part of this grid life, which is defined by the digital and technological experience. And the experience changes every day.
One of our enduring problems with technology is that it changes too fast. Humans – just like any other species on Earth – takes time to evolve. And when our slow-evolving mind meets fast-evolving tech, it is often the mind that gets short-charged. Technology has a lot of negative effects on our brain, and they can become serious and harmful over time.
Here are some of the most significant ways technology can affect and even change your brain. Read on!
How many phone numbers you can rattle off just off the top of your mind? Chances are, not many, probably two or three of them. Ask older generations who are less exposed to technology though, you’ll find they remember a lot more of them.
The reason is, we are increasingly dependent on memory-aiding tech. Phone and computer memories are replacing our actual memories, and that in turn is decreasing our overall capacity for remembering. This process is called ‘cognitive offloading’, and it increases every time you consult the internet to check on some information. The more you rely on technology to act as your memory, the less confident you’ll be using your own over time.
Digital media and technology has increased our capacity to squeeze more work in a shorter span of time. Mobile devices regularly advertise as a solution to continuing or checking on your office work while spending time in some other place, like with your family or on a vacation. Digital media, in short, pushes us to multi-task and taut greater connectivity as the key to it.
But our brain doesn’t really work like that. The human brain works best when it can give a job its full attention. When we try to multi-task, our capacity for attention doesn’t automatically increase to accommodate all the tasks. Rather, it divides the available amount. Which means, you actually have less attention to spare for each of your tasks.
When you do this regularly, i.e. make divided attention into a habit, your natural capacity for attention decreases. After a point, your attention starts to decrease even quicker on each task you set yourself. Over time, your natural attention span is lowered. Without focus and attention, however, no task can be done well. So a lower attention span essentially means failing to give your best to all the tasks that require your attention.
Over-reliance on technology affects another crucial facet of the human mind; the ability to think abstractly. Recent studies point to the fact that our exposure to digital modes of communication is making us more inclined to prefer concrete details over abstract interpretation.
This preference, in turn, leads to an overall decrease in our capacity to effectively interpret disjointed information. Our ability to think abstractly is what allows us to put value to our experiences. Lessening of that ability is harmful not just to our brains, but to society at large as well.
When abstraction is lessened, so does our ability to imagine. And one of the core functions of human society is imagination. Imagination allows us to build trusted relationships between strangers, develop communications, and establish common structures and rules. Basically, when we lose the ability to imagine, we stop understanding the experience of other people.
Digital media and technology provides us information about other people, but information is not the only way we learn about that. Visual clues, body languages, touch, sound – all of this has significant role in building perception. When we see two-dimensional information about a person, we miss out on all the other clues, and our ability to imagine a shared experience is lessened.
Digital technology has been a revolutionary intervention in the history of human civilization. But if not handled with mindful caution and care, this could very well lead to a breakdown of many crucial features of what makes us human. Being mindful of our engagement with technology is the need of the hour. Perhaps we should give it a little more thought, for the sake of our brains.