The world that we see today is a lot different than it used to be, say 100 years ago, and it will be significantly different, say 10 years from today. So what is the reason behind this rapidly changing world? It won’t be wrong to say that the driving force behind this change is ‘Technology’.
Humans have been trying to make lives as simpler, efficient and comfortable as possible since their inception. This zeal inspires them to innovate new technologies and whether one likes or not but no one can deny that technology has made lives efficient and comfortable or in general terms, “better”. The positive impact of technology on the lives of common people has been significant. For example, take the case of communication. Just imagine how people used to communicate with each other before the invention of telephone or email. How many days it used to take for sending a message from one place to another? Maybe weeks. Communication across seas and oceans was next to impossible (or highly expensive once transportation through seas became possible). Now take a look at the situation today : no matter in which corner of the globe one’s now, communication to any part of the world is possible within a fraction of second, thanks to email, telephones, fax etc. Imagining a day without internet or telephone itself is a terrible feeling!
Let’s take another example – transportation. Before the invention of motor vehicles, people used to travel on foot or with the help of animals. Now imagine how many days it used to take for one person to travel from one place to another. Even distance as short as 10 miles used to take hours. Long distance travel used to be too risky, expensive as well as time taking. Nobody even in their wildest dreams would’ve thought of travelling from India to America in just 22 hours. What’s the situation today? International travel has become a reality for many. Now imagine a world without any modern means of transportation. Feels terrible!
Another area where technology is having a significant positive impact – research. People now use to live longer, thanks to the technical advancements in medical research. Nowadays, diagnostic and treatment of diseases that were considered incurable (say a century ago) has become possible. Besides, explaining various scientific phenomenon have become simple, thanks to simulations and highly accurate computations. Now humans know much more about themselves as well as the universe than they used to know at the times of Galileo or Newton.
Though there are countless positive impacts of technology, it has negative impacts on human ability too! Take the same example of transportation. When there were no motor vehicles, people used to travel miles on foot. Do they prefer to do the same now? No. These days, people use motor vehicles even for distances that are within their reach. It certainly saves time but at the same time, it takes a toll on human ability to walk too. Now consider the invention of Smartphone. Today’s smartphone has all the powers that a computer used to have a decade ago. Anything can be accomplished with the help of a smartphone on the go. But it’s important to note that smartphones are taking a toll on human memory and computational ability. The easiest way of proving that is by try recalling the phone number of relatives or friends or neighbors without checking the phone. Majority of people won’t be able to do it. Now take another test. Try doing simple arithmetic problems like ((10+87+69-75)*(9-10+4))/(5+2). In order to solve this problem, many people would prefer to use a calculator. It’s not that they can’t do it without using calculator. They prefer calculator perhaps because it saves time and to an extent, they trust calculator more than their brain.
Cyber security giant Kaspersky conducted a survey to study the impact of smartphones on human brain and the findings of that study were obvious. Based on a survey of 1,000 Americans ages 16 to 55, split evenly between men and women, the report adds that almost half (44%) admit that their smartphone “serves as their memory”. About 70% of those surveyed could recall their significant other’s number. Only 34% could call one of their kids without checking the number first, and fewer than half (45.4%) could call their job. Without looking up—or autodialing—the number, 44% can’t call their siblings. More than half (51.4%) don’t know their friends’ digits, and 70% don’t know their neighbors’. The study found that people ages 16 to 24 are the most likely to say their devices are “the only place” where they keep essential data, so the loss of a smartphone would make them “panic.”
Up to a point, there’s nothing alarming about this. After all, clearing our brains of clutter like phone numbers might free up our minds to concentrate on bigger and better things. But such a heavy reliance on our gadgets seems to make us vulnerable.
The long-term effects of never having to use our heads for storing data are yet unknown. About 90% of those surveyed “agreed that they use the Internet as an online extension of their brain”. When faced with a question—say, what’s the capital of South Dakota?, more than half of the people surveyed “would turn to the Internet before trying to remember,” and almost one-third (28.9%) “would forget an online fact as soon as they had used it.”
So wouldn’t it be ironic if the Internet, while providing us with quick access to virtually unlimited data, was also making us dumber?