Is technology making us dumber? There are plenty of negativities associated with technology and digital culture – tech neck, making people self-centered, texting while driving, harmful EM ways, etc. While you may not do your homework on your own and use Turnitin instead but, there is also a positive: the digital age is not making us stupid, says University of Cincinnati social/behavioral expert Anthony Chemero.
Despite the hype, there is no scientific evidence that shows that digital technologies take a toll on our cognitive abilities” says the UC professor of philosophy and psychology who recently co-authored a paper dealing with this issue.
In the paper, Chemero and his colleagues at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto proffer on the issue of the evolution of the digital era, explaining how smart technology helps increase thinking, thus helping us to improve our academic performance.
“What smartphones and digital technology seem to do instead is to change the ways in which we engage our biological cognitive abilities,” Chemero says, adding “these changes are actually cognitively beneficial.”
Computers, tablets, and smartphones, according to him, function as a helping tool for calculation, retaining information and recalling it whenever you need it. For example, he says, your smartphone has already stored a map to the baseball stadium so, you don’t have to stop around everyone and ask for directions.
This helps free up brain space and energy to think about something else which requires more active cognition. The same holds true in a professional and academic setting: “We’re not solving complex mathematical problems with pen and paper or memorizing phone numbers in 2023.”
Additionally, smart technology makes decision-making possible that would otherwise be very hard to achieve on our own, says the paper’s lead author Lorenzo Cecutti, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto. He gives an example of GPS technology on our phones, it not only helps us get on our routes but lets us choose the one having low traffic. This is more of a blessing when you are driving in a new city.
Chemero adds: “You put all this technology together with a naked human brain and you get something that’s smarter…and the result is that we, supplemented by our technology, are actually capable of accomplishing much more complex tasks than we could with our un-supplemented biological abilities”
While there may be other consequences to smart technology, “making us stupid is not one of them,” says Chemero.
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