Technology's Influence on Human Intelligence

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Because of its use in different fields and in people's daily lives, technology is shaping every part of human life. The inventions that evolved in the twentieth century radically reshaped industries, medicine, and research. Based on how it is used, technology may have an effect on people's intellect. For example, the use of computers and the internet has influenced how people live, interact, and conduct business in various parts of the world. However, some of the consequences can be harmful, especially if technology is misused, such as breaking into institutional networks and people's emails. Steven Pinker in Mind over Mass Media argues that intellectual depth cannot be reduced or harmed by modern media. The anonymously written article in The Onion, Nation Shudders at Large Block of Uninterrupted Text openly mocks the concern that people have over new technologies portraying them incapable of consuming pure text. However, both articles strive to prove that contemporary electronic media are not as harmful to people’s intelligence and mind as some people think. Daniel J. Levitin in his article Why the Modern World is Bad for your Brain argues that with this information overload, people have problems with focusing on something important. Technology is not harmful to human intelligence if used in the right way although the general concern is on the individuals that use it in a way that creates an overload of information in their minds.

Levitin argues that with technology the human brain is busier than ever before as it is hard to figure out what is important from the flow of information people face every day. Each day people are coming up with new inventions using the available technology to make life more meaningful. For instance, discovery of the social media that is connecting several people is an evidence of human quest of developing new ways of utilizing modern technology. This is a proof that technology does not reduce human intelligence but instead, it widens it since they are busy improving existing skills to increase its utility. Levitin calls smartphones “Swiss army knife-like appliances”, which functions as a secretary, newspaper, calendar, shop assistant, and many other daily tasks. He blames people for trying to do as many things as possible at one time, arguing that multitasking is “a powerful and diabolical illusion”. However, people are not always simply multitasking. Instead, they are often constantly switching from one task to another creating an illusion of multitasking. This make a person’s effort less efficient since one does not take time to think about the desired results. In other words, instead of doing one or two things properly, a person may do ten things hurriedly with a smartphone. This “info-mania” can reduce people’s IQ by 10 points as Levitin argues, which is greater than the cognitive losses from smoking marijuana. Concentrating on multitasking causes the brain to burn calories so quickly that people feel exhausted after a short time as shifting attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, which is also crucial for concentrating on one task. This shows that technology is not bad but the way people use it may lead to adverse effects on their bodies especially the brain interfering with their concentration.

Steven Pinker in Mind over Mass Media argues that if electronic media are hazardous to intelligence, then the quality of science is decreasing. Considering that scientists are constantly answering e-mails, rarely using papers, and using PowerPoint for presentations, Pinker’s statement bears some truth. Indeed, discoveries are multiplying every day and causing confusion to many people. It does not help either that the number of people who read electronic mass media is far greater than the number of professionals involved in science. Nevertheless, Pinker presents his counterargument claiming that if a person trains to do one area, then it is better to get more experience in that area only since “accomplished people don’t bulk up their brains with intellectual calisthenics” (Pinker). It is necessary to focus on a single field of study rather than the entire subject. This ensures high quality of research increasing the reliability of the findings. For instance, if one decides to do business via the social media site such as the Facebook, it is wise to stick to the type of media for advertisements and other activities of promoting sales instead of combining it with the traditional media. The type of clients targeted via the social media may differ from the ones targeted when using the traditional media. This proves that it is a good idea to focus on a specific audience and use the right channels to reach it. According to Clark, Lawlor-Savage and Goghari (51), “The ways in which people think are strongly influenced by the social and cognitive rewards and demands they are exposed”. This means that intellectual ability cannot be generalized without considering the current situation of individuals such as the need to innovate. Self-discipline is important to allow people to avoid focusing on many subjects or objectives at once rather than handling one issue at a time. If technology is utilized the right way and for the right purpose the results are amazing such as using the social media for marketing.

Scientists argue that excessive internet use can be problematic when it regularly interferes with normal daily living. They also found that multimodality does not guarantee improvement in long-term memory or even help the person to understand the information from the field he or she is unfamiliar with. According to Rotman (2), digital technologies are slowing down creation of jobs since workers have to keep on changing skills through retraining to adjust their skills to meet current technologies. However, technology cannot be blamed for all types of unemployment since they only contribute to the involuntary employment as skills become obsolete. With continuous training and adoption of very new technology, the problem can be solved. Technology causes workers skills not to match with the employer needs as argued by Rotman (2). This means that people should be prepared to upgrade their skills to match the changing technologies to improve production. However, spending too much time on advancing technology does not guarantee quality outcome. Evidence was found that attention skills from video games do not translate into benefits for everyday life multitasking. Extensive media multitaskers do not appear more skillful that those who do more than one thing at once. Scientists advise people to use skills and ensure hygienic utilization of digital technology (Howard-Jones, 10). This further correlates with disciplining oneself to understand that prolonged use of these commodities can cause issues. For instance, at dinnertime, people can put their smartphones down and concentrate on eating and uniting with family members. According to Deursen et al. (411), internet and smartphone addiction result from habitual behavior, which people are using to escape from reality. For instance, if one does not want to engage in discussions in a group he/she may engage in surfing the phone instead of listening to others’ views or contributing ideas to the motion. Everything should be used moderately and individuals should concentrate on perfecting one thing before thinking of initiating another.

Continuous information flow can be distracting, addictive, and sometimes monotonous to individuals although technology cannot be considered as harmful to human intelligence if used the right way. However, distraction by overuse of technology is not a new phenomenon, and it is not an issue, which cannot be solved. The solution is to develop strategies of self-control as people always did with other developments through history. Self-control is required in which individuals should utilize technology such as the social media appropriately. If a person has a habit of surfing the internet in bed before sleeping, he or she should try stop and focus on having good sleep without overloading the brain with more information. Knowledge is increasing every second while human capability to memorize and analyze it remains the same. Information technologies allow people to manage and retrieve information for intellectual development at different levels from mass media, eBooks, and encyclopedias. With the right organization and without fanaticism, advanced modern technology is an important aspect of advancing humanity itself. This cannot be accomplished without discipline and self-control of the people today and for the generations to come.

Works Cited

Clark, Cameron M., Linette Lawlor-Savage, and Vina M. Goghari. "The Flynn Effect: A Quantitative Commentary on Modernity and Human Intelligence." Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Perspectives 14.2, 2016, pp. 39-53.

“Nation Shudders at Large Block of Uninterrupted Text”. The Onion, Vol. 46, No. 10, 09 March 2010, http://www.theonion.com/article/nation-shudders-at-large-block-of-uninterrupted-te-16932.

Howard-Jones, Paul. The Impact of Digital Technologies on Human Wellbeing: Evidence from the Sciences of Mind and Brain. Nominet Trust, 2011.

Levitin, Daniel J. “Why the Modern World is bad for your Brain”. The Guardian, 18 January 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/18/modern-world-bad-for-brain-daniel-j-levitin-organized-mind-information-overload

Pinker, Steven. “Mind over Mass Media”. New York Times, 10 June 2010,

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/opinion/11Pinker.html

Rotman, David. "How Technology is destroying Jobs." Technology Review 16.4, 2013, pp. 28-35.

Van Deursen, Alexander JAM, Et Al. "Modeling Habitual and Addictive Smartphone Behavior: The Role of Smartphone Usage Types, Emotional Intelligence, Social Stress, Self-Regulation, Age, and Gender." Computers in Human Behavior 45, 2015, pp. 411-420.

November 23, 2022
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