Are new technologies making us dumber?

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It is believed that the Internet and the development of technology have negatively affected our habits, intellect, psyche and memory. In fact, it turns out that everything is not so clear-cut.
A person is surrounded by a huge number of devices and services, thanks to which there is no longer any need to keep a lot of information in your head at once. And this worries many. Parents are armed with accusations that the smartphone has replaced the book – 47% of Americans, according to last year’s study by Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey, consider their underage children addicted to smartphones, which threatens to develop nomophobia.

On average, young people spend 5 hours a day on their phones, checking the status of the gadget more than 85 times.

Alarm sociologists argue that scrolling and swiping have replaced long, thoughtful reading, and “tape” thinking affects our ability to remember and store information, as well as to highlight meaningful. They say that the brain perceives the availability of any data at any time as a “dope”, without which we will lose the ability to absorb knowledge.

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What seemed fantastic 30 years ago has become a routine part of everyday life. Technology has come and is firmly rooted in all spheres of life: communications, marketing, medicine, sports, art, and this frightens (or rather, irritates) people who use technologies and are unable to refuse them. But is the devil so terrible?

What is technology?

A vacuum cleaner is a technology, a car too. Thanks to the first, people save time that used to take cleaning, the second helps to overcome distances that were either inaccessible before, or that consumed an incredible amount of time. All technologies essentially come down to increasing the productivity of certain actions with less labor and/or time.

The technology itself in the 19th and early 20th centuries was not difficult to predict: the horse moves slowly from one city to another – you need to go faster. Therefore, they will invent a device that will replace the horse. But in the second half of the 20th century, humanity seems to have stepped forward 150 years, even the tasks of science fiction and futurology have changed. “It’s not the cars that need to be predicted,” said the popular science fiction writer Peter Watts, who made his debut in the early 2000s. “And traffic jams.”

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Technology has changed life with lightning speed on the scale of history, but so organically for an individual that we rarely think about the fact that thirty years ago it was impossible to write someone “by mail” and get an answer almost instantly, there was no Netflix, Facebook and Google, and in order to make friends with a person, it was necessary to communicate, and not click on “Add to friends.”

The first computer weighed 4.5 tons and occupied an entire room, a smartphone – a much more powerful and efficient device, in fact a computer with the rudimentary capabilities of a phone – fits in your pocket. We can instantly (cheaper and cheaper) contact a person anywhere in the world, we get more background knowledge, but at the same time we often overload the brain with useless, and even harmful information.

How has technology changed media?

“A gas pipeline exploded in a Chinese province” – if this news had reached us, it would have been a week or even a month later. Or next year. Now – instantly. We look at our gas stove and think: won’t it explode? The media take advantage of this – they need readers – even when no gas pipeline explodes in any China. This is how fake news and other toxic wastes of the Internet appear, which over the years are becoming increasingly difficult to separate from the truth.

See also: Journalism of the future will be handled by robots. But there is a place for people too.

The Oxford Dictionary named fake news its word of the year in 2017. The worst thing is that this term can be understood as anything: from a reporter’s mistake to outright lies, from military propaganda and targeted misinformation to a subtle hoax that shapes the worldview of society. And again, a double bottom: society and the state in almost every country are against the spread of fakes (except North Korea), but everyone understands the struggle differently. Someone, for example, fights fakes by creating fakes.

The term experienced a rebirth in 2017, when Trump called fake news publications that Russia could be involved in rigging the election results, and this word has existed for a long time – more than 120 years.

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It does not matter who is to blame and who is right – the goal of the producers of any content is to produce content, and not to convey any information.  For example, one of the top media managers from among the Kazakhstani “big three” –, and – in a personal conversation answered the question about the advisability of producing content of dubious quality as follows: “This is interesting to people, old man. If not us, someone else will.”

How is technology changing habits and communications?

It is said that the authenticity of society – what Benjamin called “aura” – is irretrievably lost. Interest in speed, or rather even acceleration of time, communications, information delivery, according to Denis Isakov, Associate Professor of the Department of Theoretical Sociology and Epistemology of the Institute of Economics, RANEPA, disappears almost instantly. Getting a new speed, we lose the opportunity to evaluate the changes, compare it with the “old” one. As soon as a person gained the ability to talk to anyone at any distance or get any information about anything with a few finger movements across the screen, it began to seem to him that this was not enough.