A couple of years back, some friends and I decided to head out for some dinner and drinks after a long week of work. Of course, one of the guys showed up over 45 minutes later than we had agreed upon (and no, he wasn’t Latino). “Sorry I’m late, my GPS took me to the old location in midtown,” said my friend.
Normally “getting lost” is reason enough to forgive someone for being late to a casual meeting. But not this time, I was heated. I mean, I told him the place was right by my house and even gave him general directions. Rather than listening to me (and his common sense), he went on the advice of a piece of technology that took him to the opposite side of town.
I’d bet that almost no one would argue that the technological advances that we’ve had in the last 15 years have made our lives better in many ways (or at least more enjoyable). I mean, we can watch TV shows when we want (and when we’re ready), hear any song at any time, and use a calculator to find derivatives and integrals (where my math nerds at?). But as my high school Spanish AP teacher always said, “With every step forward, we also move back.”
At the risk of sounding like an old man that complains about the newer generation and how easy they have it, I’m gonna go ahead and say that, yeah, our dependence on technology is messing with our ability to think and reason.
How many times do we get in the car without even knowing the general direction we need to get to our destination? How many phone numbers and birthdays do we still remember? Do we bust out our calculators every time we need to figure out how much tip to leave a server?
Just like anything else, our brain needs to be used every so often, and too often we’re letting technology do the thinking for us. Just spending a couple of hours on Facebook and Twitter is more than enough time to see that some people can barely spell (and I’m not talking about they’re, their, and there…or loose vs. lose). A couple of days ago, someone tweeted: “Obama is the apidimi of what the black man is supposed to be.” Really? (If your profile is unlocked on twitter…and you tweet something like that, it’s time to lock or delete your profile.)
Inevitably, technology will continue to improve and have an even greater influence on our daily lives. But are we allowing it to do too much for us?
I wouldn’t say that we’re becoming dumber; in fact, I’m not saying that at all. We probably hold more information in our brains than ever before. But there is a difference between knowing “stuff” and thinking about “stuff,” and I worry that, collectively, we’re not forcing ourselves to do enough of the latter.