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Is addiction to technology making us less efficient?

2 years ago · 3 MIN READ
#professional  #coding 

As a "good father" I train my son to be accustomed to technology. He's got all kind of gadgets a kid can dream of: game consoles, pro gamer PC, smartphone. When he interacts with these devices, it's like second nature or an extension of his physical entity. These activities required doing several things at once, and I am impressed by his constant “multitasking”. As a "good father", I try to mix entertainment session with learning opportunity, by asking some questions:

-Do you want to know how your FPS(First Person Shooter) game works ?

-Do you want to know how this App in your smartphone works?

His answer: Uh... I don't care.

Ouch! That’s hard to ear, but I keep trying to grab his free-time-brain and activate learning process, not as a painful moment, but rather as entertainment. Time after time, I’ve noticed it's pretty clear that the screen-based is producing changes in the behavior. Attention spans are shorter, personal communication skills are affected and there's a marked reduction in the ability to think abstractly. Sure my observation is not based on a fair scientific appraisal of the evidence. Many articles discuss about this topic, some suggest screen-based have a negative impact, other suggest that screen-based activities, like playing action video games, can lead to a small improvement in mental performance, though more studies are needed.

Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, a lot of digital noise, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting. Knowledge is at fingerprint and at large scale. Do we really need to stock this knowledge in our brains, can we ? AI (Artificial Intelligence), mega corps lethal weapon, value proposition is to provide the right offer at the right time with the maximum of personalization. We don’t need to search for the information, product, service; it’s all coming to us by magic! But when it comes to higher brain function, it's clear that there is some truth in the adage "use it or lose it".

Although we think we’re doing several things at once, multitasking, this is a powerful and diabolical illusion. Some neuroscientists say that our brains are not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so. So we’re not actually keeping a lot of balls in the air like an expert juggler; we’re more like a bad amateur plate spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of us but worried it will come crashing down any minute. Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient.

Technology has made us individually dumber and smarter, and collectively smarter. Technology empowered us the ability to do more while understanding less about what we are doing. Programming human skills into a machine (blackboxing), because it makes the operations invisible to the user, allows more people to do things without investing the time, resources and effort into learning the skills needed. Putting the expertise in the machine lowers the barriers to entry for doing something because the person does not need to know as much.

Coming back to my son, I try to make him understand the need to invest in learning things, and that learning is a process. This is what I tell him;

Whether you're trying to master a new skill, obsessing too much about the results leads inevitably to stress, frustration and—before long—failure. The problem is that the “results” are beyond control. You can't force your brain to instantly understand. What you can control, though, is “the process of learning”. Don't worry about the hard part of learning right now. Don’t focus on the result. Instead, set a goal for yourself to learn what you want and by time you will achieve amazing things. Not only will you have great powers, but you'll be any superhero you want to be.

This question is hard to answer with yes or no.The underlying point of this post is to highlight the need to get the mindset of learning or continuous learning. Technology is evolving at fast pace and making us more and more depend on others to do what we cannot do at all. It is possible to learn more about the technologies we use, to learn basic skills and to find people who know more about particular topics. In this way the internet’s vast wealth of information can not only increase our dependence but also decrease it.


Pascal Bibehe

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