In this fascinating article, the author explores whether technology is transforming who we are as humans. He wonders whether our reliance on technology is dulling those traits we usually associate with being human: the ability to empathize, to sense and express emotion, to reason diligently to a conclusion, and to experience life through all our senses rather than just one or two. He also worries that we are denying ourselves certain pleasures that drive our work, creativity, and resourcefulness, such as the joy we naturally feel when we make a hard-earned discovery and the will to persevere in the face of difficulty. He identifies advances in search engines, our over-reliance on GPS systems for finding directions, and the lack of sensory stimulation in modern websites and applications as catalysts for what he describes as the dehumanization of humanity.
I share the author’s concerns. I see what 16 hours per day of computer use is likely doing to me. I’m not a psychologist, and I wouldn’t begin to know how to test whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship going on in my psychological makeup. However, I find the following gradual personal shifts troubling:
- I’m constantly multitasking, just like my computer. I’m multitasking right now as I type this and listen to my wife at the same time. (I hope she doesn’t read this.) Am I listening as well as I could be were I not typing this? What is alarming is that I’m almost always multitasking. I’m almost never focused on just one thing.
- The emotional range I can play seems as limited as Keanu Reeve’s. I haven’t cried in years. I find it takes too much out of me to cry, and that directly opposes my self-imposed edict to be as efficient with my “personal resources” as possible.
- I rely on search and GPS a lot. I want the easy answer. So much of life is challenging and illogical. I simply want to find the answer, and search engines and GPS are willing oracles.
- I stare at my phone screen almost habitually, including when the dog wakes me up to go for a walk at 5:30 in the morning. Most summer mornings boast beautiful dawn skies. I miss most of them, because I too often slip into looking at the phone screen to catch up on email.
- I take pictures of my family a lot, because I want to preserve the memories. I don’t trust my own memory to capture them. I wonder what I miss peering through the viewfinder.
- I hate, hate, hate phone calls and handwritten exchanges. I simply want to type or text. I find phone calls awkward, and I type so much faster than I write that the inefficiency of scribbling out a letter bothers me. Don’t call me, and I won’t call you.
I’ve always been somewhat of an introvert, so technology might not be what precipitated these tendencies. Yet, given how much my job forces me to be tied to glowing screens, I find it difficult to deny that technology isn’t at least playing a significant role in reinforcing my predispositions.
This is something else to worry about, I guess. I’m going to have to hop onto Google to see if there is a remedy.