Imagine the following situation! You must solve a complex mathematical problem or write an essay on the most mind-bending technical achievements. In the past, you had to learn the hard way step-by-step and discover reliable sources offline (does anyone remember physical libraries, books, or newspapers anymore?) Then, you made logical deductions yourself. Undeniably, it was a time-consuming process but essential to the development of your cognitive skills.
Innovative technology is in charge now! Now, all you have to do is type your request into an internet browser or launch an app. Shortly, your answers will be supplied without any effort on your behalf. In brief, technology provides a time and energy-saving shortcut that comes at a price: you no longer have to use your brains.
Solutions are brought to you ready-made. What do you think this effortless access to information and the quick fix do to your problem-solving skills? At first and without any serious consideration, anybody would conclude that technology makes us dumber. However, the issue at hand is much more tangled. So, let’s untangle it!
Access to technology raised numerous cognitive disorders.
It’s no head scratcher that technology surrounds us daily. Digital media, online gaming, smartphones, tablets, and internet use have changed modern societies to their core. Did you know that about 5.07 billion people worldwide had access to the internet in early 2023?
Can technology affect our brain functions? Not to mention the larger scope. Technological breakthroughs have influenced social interactions, mental health, and education, which can also be linked to our brain functioning, especially in early childhood. No wonder concerns about digital media use and its direct impact on our cognitive skills have become increasingly predominant among behavioral scientists and psychologists.
Children’s cognitive abilities are exposed to perils the most.
WHO was among the first to raise the red flag. In 2019, the Health Organization published facts proving that prolonged digital media use obstructs children’s working memory capacity.
Secondly, it led to intensive psychological issues, such as sleep disorders, peer pressure, online bullying, depression, and anxiety. Then, their text comprehension skills also deteriorated. As a result, schools were instructed to limit younglings’ screen time and smartphone usage.
We make connections differently when reading a book vs. the screen.
On that note, students (and many adults) could link events in a story and logically interpret the events therein if the text was shown to them in a printed format. However, the connection between facts got lost once they read the story on a digital screen.
The key is that we establish associations based on sensory and spatial indications. For example, a book has a particular smell to it, and it’s tangible. While on the touch screen, we can quickly lose track of the story. Besides, countless factors, such as pop-up videos and built-in links, can easily distract our attention.
In a word, our attention span is short and erratic anyway. Multi-tasking rarely works (especially with children.) Suppose our attention is put to the test regularly. In that case, we are likely to get disengaged by the story, and the chances are that we forget entirely about the events we have just read about.
Technology shrinks human effort.
Human effort and cognitive input are vital to mental health. However, machines tend to replace our cerebral endeavors. Nowadays, we can’t perform as many tasks as a computer. Thus, we feel that our cognitive efforts are less competitive compared to machines. Why bother if a computer can deal with a problem far more competently than we do? Smartphones, PCs, and devices often make our attempts futile. In our frustration, we likely give up attempting to devise our own solutions.
Nonetheless, suppose we don’t strive to learn. In that case, our cerebral cortex (the grey matter responsible for information processing and thinking) will no longer receive impulses and won’t make logical connections. As a result, our cognitive abilities can get bogged down at a premature level.
Our cognitive standstill can transform us into unemployed cerebral vegetables.
Another excellent example of technology ruining our cognitive abilities is serving us with a quick fix, rendering our cerebral inputs unnecessary. There are artificial programs that can mimic and reproduce our thinking. Students can use applications to write essays, so why bother researching and compiling a 100% personal article? Google translation apps are available worldwide, so why learn a new language?
First, complex technological projects, like coding and programming, will be deployed on computers. Then, machines will take over all our day-to-day tasks gradually, resulting in the growth of massive unemployment all around the world.
What are the advantages of technology on human cognitive abilities?
Technology enabled us to expand our horizons. In ancient times, people tended to explain incomprehensible phenomena and events with religion and superstition. Today, technological advancements assisted humanity in discovering the world around us. They helped us wrap our heads around physics, chemistry, and mathematics.
Besides, technology contributed to curing severe diseases; think of gene therapy! According to predictions, the so-called clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) can combat cancer, blood disorders, and blindness!
How does technology aid education?
The traditional methodology often implied copying textbooks and similarly uncreative and dull tasks. In the 21st century, our children can benefit from engaging material and learning tools without wasting time on mundane tasks. They can access them on their laptops or smartphones anytime and even remotely.
Undeniably, electronic learning resources have undergone revolutionary improvements. School tasks and assignments are captivating, creative, and inspirational. Lessons and exercises can be custom-made for specific academic requirements. Then, learning resources are virtually infinite.
For this reason, students can access uploaded cloud documents worldwide and continue working on joint projects. Access to information is limitless. Teachers can facilitate skills development instead of old educational tropes. Therefore, technology is essential in cognitive abilities development.
Technology helps us be more tolerant and friendly to each other.
Now that information is available 24/7, we can learn and understand each other’s cultures better. The internet has created the concept of a worldwide social village that anyone can browse. Learning is the first step in becoming more tolerant of all nations’ customs, arts, social institutions, and outstanding historical achievements.
Though set in the future, sci-fi films always reflect present concerns. The Matrix, Terminator, AI (Artificial Intelligence), Ex Machina, and Blade Runner portray a bleak version of our future where technology went haywire. They have the following idea at their core:
Technology is a double-edged sword. It boosts human progress, cures diseases, and performs complex tasks for the more significant benefit of humankind. How we use technical breakthroughs depends on us. Yes, we can build new things faster and more efficiently and up a realtor’s real estate sales, for that matter. Still, we should be worried more about the drawbacks of technology on our cognitive abilities and our fate on Earth.
If uncontrolled, it can sprawl and is likely to cause more damage than good. It can block the development of the mental abilities of the most fragile minds. Our brains need tutoring and education. Besides, controlled access to new information is paramount.
Since access to technology and information is given, we are prone to forget about learning new skills. Moreover, even the drive to learn new things vanishes. Instead, we become victims of the digital comfort zone provided by video games, cyberspace encounters, and TikTok videos. In the long run, technology will limit our actual physical space and contribute to social alienation and the vanishing of human interactions (another form of cognitive fallback). In other words, we check our brains and let artificial intelligence deal with our tasks. This is what we call mental suicide.