Mind Over Mass Media
In the article, “Mind Over Mass Media”, published in 2010 in The New York Times, Steven Pinker, a Psychology professor at Harvard, discusses how new technologies can impact our brain. He also replies to the common critics about them. According to Pinker, new technologies have always scared people and this fear seems to be recurrent in the history. However, the author points out that despite those fears, the world is still running and great developments have been made, particularly in the scientific field. According to him, new technologies change the way we think as every experience we encounter in our life and we should not be afraid of them because they are not changing our brain fundamentally. People should also learn how to prevent themselves from the addictive drift of social media. Although Pinker provides interesting ideas and developments, he seems to only fly over the effects of new technologies in our societies and his paper is lacking credible studies and logical arguments. In his article, Pinker develops some interesting points. One of those points demonstrates that people have been scared by technologies since for a long time only to after later use them daily and realize how useful they were. Indeed, even the “technologies” that we today consider as normal tools were suspicious for many people in the old time. For example, Plato (-V°c before J-C) was afraid of the writing in the Antique Greece, assuming that people won’t make the effort to remember facts. In the same way, Pinker cites examples of comic books and video games fears, new media that are today completely and normally integrated in our way of life. Pinker is demonstrating insightfully that despite those fears, people did not stop thinking. This argument sounds logical and is interesting, supporting well his ‘pro-technologies’ position. However, some points of this paper seem to be based only on opinions and lack of credible source or even logic. When Pinker says “cognitive neuroscientists roll their eyes when Internet’s critics cite researches showing how “experience can change the brain”, he forgets to give to the readers a proper name or study supporting this idea. The anecdote with Woody Allen about War and Peace is devoid of logic and brings more confusion than support to Pinker’s ideas. Finally, when Pinker provides a credible source, the book of the psychologists Chabris and Simons, he reads it inconsistently. This book shows how training in one field help to be better in it, but only in it. Pinker assumes that it will be the same for technologies. Yet, new technologies and particularly Internet are not another medium, or science. Internet is more powerful than the latters, Internet is creating a completely new dimension of relations between human and is impacting all the area of society in a way that has never be seen before. Finally, studies show that Internet is changing our brain abilities, unlike what Pinker writes. Sparrow (2011) demonstrates that Internet attenuates and weakens our memory capacities. Cash (2012) explains that Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), coming from a considerable use of Internet, cause « neurological complications, psychological disturbances, and social problems. » Those studies prove that Internet is completely changing the way we use our brain and when Pinker simply suggests to turn-off our phone to get rid of addiction, it is difficult not to smile as we all know how difficult it is a human being to change a process when it is already implemented in our behavior. Despite some ideas that Pinker puts well in perspective, hehis writing lacks of logic and supportive points to really prove that new technologies are not doing any harm to our societies. More decisive arguments could have helped his ideas. One can also point out that it is difficult to have a precise opinion on new technologies as they are always renewing and changing. Perhaps in a few years, it will be easier to look at them accurately with more data and studies.
Betsy Sparrow, et al. (2011) Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips, Science 333, 776 Cash, H., Rae D. C. & Winkler (2012) A. Internet Addiction: A Brief Summary of Research and Practice. Current Psychiatry Reviews, 1. Plato, P. W., A. N., (1995) Phaedrus. Cambridge, MA, Hackett Pub Co, 20.