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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Tech Fallout

We are a tech society. We use tech. We live tech. We need tech. I mean, where would we be if we didn't have the Internet or the computer? How would we entertain ourselves without television, movies, the Kindle or Nook to read, and, of course, all of the above on our phones? Technology gives us long-distance connections around the world. You used to have to find a phone booth, but now you can call in an emergency on the spot. The sheer tonnage of information available is mind-boggling. We have new medical treatments and capabilities that only advanced technology can provide. Education has benefited in research, educational games, and web seminars. Some kids can go to school entirely on the Internet from their homes. Businesses have a broader reach. There are new technologies for disabled people. Automation has freed us from dull, repetitive tasks. Transportation is bigger, better, and faster. There are new and improved safety features. Hey, we even have GPS to tell anyone and everyone where to go. Life is grand with technology.

I wonder, then, if it would be a surprise if I suggested that there are many unintended consequences and serious dangers from modern technology. I wonder if anyone is paying attention.

Modern technology -- especially the screen, whether it's television, phone, computer, or otherwise -- is causing childhood developmental issues. At a very young age, the medium of the two-dimensional screen as a focus of attention has detrimental effects on normal brain development. In normal existence, the child would be looking in a variety of places, training the brain to change attention and focus, and adjust for distances and such. With the flashing images and flat screen, this development is arrested. One report says children are having a harder time recognizing emotions. Without face-to-face interaction, they lose touch with reading facial clues. Other studies say that the rise in ADHD among children is directly connected to television time. The recommendations are that children spend zero time in front of a screen up to 2 years old. For ages 3-18, no more than two hours a day. Another report suggested that "Young people exposed to modern technology for more than four hours a day are less likely to display high levels of 'wellbeing' than those limiting access to less than 60 minutes." The report was also linked to another report that "a generation of children risks growing up with obsessive personalities, poor self-control, short attention spans and little empathy because of an addiction to social networking websites such as Twitter." Now a study comes out that looks like if you let a child under 3 years old spend just 30 minutes a day on handheld devices such as smartphones or tablets, you can delay their speech. It's part of brain development of the young, they say.

Beyond the childhood development issues, they tell us that modern technology is actually causing injuries on its own. There are the texting-and-driving deaths and injuries and the texting-and-walking injuries. There are the damages to head and neck, the classic tendonitis in the thumb (called "blackberry/iPhone thumb"), and hearing and vision loss.

They tell us that we're "more connected" today, but it turns out that we're actually more isolated. The indirect electronic connections lack expression, touch, contact, and often accountability. Younger people are failing to acquire social skills. For instance, the anonymity of the Internet makes for more bullying and removes social boundaries. Less and less understand the concept of "appropriate". Without the personal connection, there is as serious lack of empathy.

More time in front of a screen translates to less time spent exercising and is a contributor to today's obesity problems. People are reporting sleep deprivation because of a type of addiction to their technology.

Given the hacking and the insecurity of the Internet, there is an increase in the invasion of privacy, either from hostile individuals or from the government.

Morality itself has been twisted by our technology. Sexual morality is being driven by the Internet rather than vice versa. Pornography reigns in cyberspace, and with porn everywhere, what porn shows becomes more and more perceived as "normal" and "good". And there is a warped sense of reality. The joke is, "I know it's true; I saw it on the Internet", but it's not much of a joke because that appears to be the belief of many. "Fake news" and the lack of accountability has contributed to more dishonesty.

The transitory nature of technology has made life more transitory. We're less interested in long stories, long interactions, long social connections. They tell us that people commit less to memory because "I can just Google it." Attention spans are decreased. And, of course, there is a short-circuiting of imagination. Why imagine it when it's all there in front of you?

At the bottom, we have managed to make technology not a benefit, but a necessity. When technology becomes necessary rather than helpful, other things are lost. Life experiences are computerized rather than actually experienced. There is a decrease in books. People are losing touch with how things work and how to do things.

We can hardly do without technology these days. Imagine no smartphones or computers, no television or automobiles. I live in the desert; I can't imagine no air conditioning. In many ways technology has made life much better. Unfortunately I think that we've stopped evaluating the pros and cons of technology and adopted the "if it feels good do it" standard for tech. I'm not sure long-term outcome is going to be a good thing. Technology itself is morally neutral; it's what we do with it that makes it good or bad. Technology as an idol is bad. Technology for us is very, very close to being an idol, especially if "very close" includes "already is".

1 comment:

Grey Fisher said...

Very informative. Thanks, I wish it could be read in every home.