Smart Devices and Stupid People
Our world is one that revolves and relies on technology completely. As technology evolves, our means of communication and social interaction change with it. However, with greater technological advances comes greater responsibility. Such easy accessibility to the outside world can make it nearly impossible to keep your thoughts, your actions, and your information private in a place like the internet. Our means of communication started with basic cave paintings, to handwritten documents and books that have been translated, then to the printing press. From there we transitioned into letter writing, the creation of the telegraph, then the telephone, the radio, and photography and television. Finally, today's most prominent forms of communication were created, cell phones and the internet. Some argue that the evolution of technology is the greatest thing to happen to the fast moving world, while others argue that it is the worst. Although technological advancements have benefited us as a nation in countless ways, modern technology has created, and will continue to create, a culture of distraction that hinders our ability to socially interact well, our ability to retain simple information, and our ability to make smart decisions on and off the internet.
In 30,000 B.C.E., the first form of communication was created by the homo sapiens of that generation. This communication was known as cave painting, which were prehistoric paintings on this inside of caves that told stories. Their method involved creating color pigments made from the juice of berries and fruits. Over time, languages of sorts were created and they made it easier to communicate until eventually an established alphabet was created. This creation revolutionized the way people communicated, and those who were educated enough were able to handwrite documents and stories on vellum when paper was scarce. It took nearly 1,000 years of handwritten work for the printing press to have been created in 1448. Johann Gutenberg was successful in creating a machine that would allow for books to be mass produced at reasonable prices, and it changed the way books were made forever. Though it became possible to save information through documents, it was still difficult to communicate with anyone besides those around you. It wasn't until the telegraph, revolutionized in 1837 by Samuel F.B. Morse, that people could instantly communicate long distances. This was the first form of technology that involved the sending of elecrostatically-generated signals through a wire. From there, technology continued to evolve and ways of communication became faster and more efficient. Next came the telephone, created by Alexander Bell in 1876. Then the radio in the 1900's, which became incredibly popular for entertainment purposes in most households during the late 1920's. The radio allowed for families to stay up to date with what was going on around them, as well as provide entertainment through music, and as a result it doubled the amount of radios used in American homes by the 1940's. Technology was revolutionizing, and such advancement led to more ideas for new technology. The television was debuted in the late 1930's, but didn't become popular until the late 1940's. It was an appliance that was seen as unnecessary at first, as the radio was much more favored in American households, but it evolved and turned into something that is now an essential in current society. Technology was transforming quickly, and the first handhold cell phone was finally created in 1973 by Dr. Martin Cooper. It wasn't until four years after the first model was made that the cell phones officially went public and since then the cell phone market has grown from $3 million annually to $30 billion annually. Cell phone improvement evolved with the creation of the internet. Although the internet was invented in 1967 for military purposes, it quickly caught fire and was used by corporations and universities for collaboration purposes. The World Wide Web was created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990 as a method of publishing information on the Internet. The Web began taking off in 1993 when Marc Andreessen, a computer science student, created the first popular Web browser. The internet eventually exploded in 1995 when it had nearly 16 million users, and has evolved into nearly 2 billion users currently. More importantly, access to the internet available through most cell phones now, and studies show that the internet will be accessed more often with mobile phones than computers with time. The amount technology has advanced is incredible and almost hard to believe, and despite already having access to nearly everything and everyone, it continues to advance regularly. As incredible as it is to have such advanced means of communication through technology, it is also creates a negative impact on society in more ways than one. Excessive access to technology can lead to extreme reliance on devices, poor decision making through negative influences in younger generations, and disconnect from those around us because of poor interaction skills. However, it can have its benefits as well. Technology represents the innovation of man and our increasing advancement in human society, it helps us in making everyday tasks simple, and it makes communication much easier and more efficient. It has changed the way we live, for the better or the worse.
Our world has drastically changed because of technological advancements, and many believe technology is a negative influence on society. It's nearly impossible to stay connected with the fast moving world without a source of technology, and that isn't necessarily a good thing. It makes life easier at times, but many researchers believe our society is becoming extremely reliant on technology without fully understanding the long-term ramifications it's creating on both ourselves and future generations. Being constantly connected to everything and everyone through social media sites, texting, and other activities because of technology can impede one's ability to interact with others, their ability to retain simple information, and can cause individuals to make poor decisions on impulse.
Social skills and the way you interact with others is one of the most important characteristics needed to succeed throughout your life. A recent Stanford University study concluded that consistent overuse of technology and social media stunts the development of social skills in children. After surveying about 3,500 children from ages 8-12, researchers were able to conclude that children who were overexposed to social media through technology were far more likely to develop anti-social tendencies later on. These results aren't surprising, but instead expected. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction, and children that are overexposed to technology at a young age are learning to rely on electronic communication during a time in their lives when building people skills is most crucial. Learning how to read another's emotions and paying attention to others is a necessary skill, and technology will slowly take away the ability to do so in the future if younger generations are already reliant on it. Current teenagers are suffering from the same issue since social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are dominating teenage culture. Most teenagers, and even many adults, create cyberspace relationships with individuals they've never met before. Everyday people are making friends, lovers, and enemies on the Internet through online dating sites, social networking sites, and even gaming sites. Though these relationships may feel real at the time, they are no comparison to the personal connection you can create with another individual face to face. In cyberspace, physical contact is impossible. Whether it's a handshake, a hug, or a kiss, those are simple actions that bring you closer to another person that aren't possible in an online relationship. Humans need physical contact with each other; infants can even sink into depression and die without it. Body language is another action that helps you read and understand someone you are getting to know. It's impossible to see how someone truly reacts to a typed message or text, as using technology to communicate gives you the ability to think about what you want to say and allows you to respond whenever you wish. Online relationships often result in what is known as the Online Disinhibition Effect, the idea that people will say or do things they would never say or do face-to-face. Benign disinhibition is the phenomenon that people will open up more easily and feel uninhibited online, especially if their identity is concealed, as it can be easier to tell a stranger your deepest secrets and fears than your closest friends. There is also toxic disinhibition, which is the idea that people will show their darker side when hidden behind a computer screen. They'll either use rude language, angry threats, or harsh criticism's because of the anonymity being online gives you. It's extremely difficult to truly get to know another individual without in person interactions, and if teenagers continue to rely solely on electronic communication to build their relationships, they will struggle in ever being able to form real relationships as they grow up; both in the professional world and their daily lives.
Lacking the ability to positively interact with others is just one of the negative consequences of today's technology. Those who are extremely reliant on technology are also unknowingly hampering their ability to think logically. Having endless amounts of 'smart devices' is ironically making humans dumber. In a study done at Stanford University, researchers found that people that multitask because of their advanced technology are impairing their cognitive control; the neural mechanisms by which people actively maintain information such as goals, instructions, plans, or specific events for short periods of time, and use this information to appropriately guide and control their behavior. For example, when an individual is multitasking by using their computer, talking on the phone, and watching television, it makes it impossible for them to pay attention and retain any information. It is proven that it's impossible for the brain to process more than one piece of information at a time, and those who often multitask with technology are eventually unable to ever focus on one thing, as their brain becomes distracted so easily. It begins to weaken the memory of those who constantly turn to technological devices to accomplish simple tasks easier, quicker, and without having to think at all. It's no longer necessary to memorize anyone's telephone numbers when a smart phone can store it on speed dial. It's no longer necessary to worry about learning how to spell a word over text or the computer, when autocorrect will always fix it for you. It's no longer necessary to exercise our mind when technology will think for us. If we continue on this path, our future is in danger. Finding the lazy way to do something has become the norm in society, and by allowing technology to do everything for us, we are losing our capability to retain any information and learn new things. In a passage from the book, The Hidden Word, author Wendell Berry writes, "The essential cultural discrimination is…between the superfluous and the indispensable… Granting the frailty, and no doubt the impermanence, of modern technology as a human contrivance, the man who can keep a fire in a stove or on a hearth is not only more durable, but wiser, closer to the meaning of fire, than the man who can only work a thermostat" (Berry 1989). Berry is saying that reliance on technology is eliminating even the most common knowledge, like making a fire. Over time, if it is no longer taught and learned, simple tasks will no longer be common knowledge. If new generations continue to rely on technology to retain and learn simple information for them, our future will be in grave danger.
The final, and possibly most relevant negative aspect of technology is the idea that technology is creating a generation of bad decision makers. Most people look at modern technology as a right rather than a privilege, and often times don't realize the consequences of their actions when it comes to using technology. Before technology was as advanced as it is today, people could only share what was on their mind with those around them. It made it easy to control one's emotions, because once strong emotions calmed down, that was the last of it. Since technological developments from the last decade, it has made it easier than anyone could ever imagine to make a poor decision that could change someone's life. With the emergence of cell phones, popular social networking sites, and gossip websites, there are countless ways to make a bad decision online that can haunt someone for the rest of their life. These acts are most often seen by teenagers, as it is more difficult for teenagers to control their impulses when accessibility to the rest of the world is just a click away. Technology can often discourage children and teenagers from thinking about their actions, making them act on impulse and react publicly by putting their emotions out on display. Every day there are teenagers that post something inappropriate, offensive, or controversial on a social networking site without realizing the repercussions. In result, there are countless incidents when a post is seen by the Administration at a school, and disciplinary actions are taken. It is often after a student has been lectured, suspended, or sometimes even expelled that they learn from their mistake, when it's too late. Many people don't realize the collateral damage of posting something on the internet they could later regret, and deleting a post doesn't make it go away. Once something is posted online, its digital fingerprints are there forever. In a recent and local case, three teenage boys at Saratoga high school sexually assaulted a drunk 15 year old classmate at a party and took pictures during the incident. Not only that, but they later posted the pictures online and sent them to friends. The victim, Audrie Pott, committed suicide 8 days later out of the humiliation and distress that the leaked photos were causing her. The three teenage boys were cited in the Fall for misdemeanor sexual assault, but once the pictures were leaked to authorities, they were able to gather enough information to arrest the three boys who are still in juvenile hall custody. At age 16, these three boys are facing a wrongful death lawsuit in court, being charged as adults. Although they deserve to be prosecuted, their impulse decision to take pictures and send them out was essentially handing the evidence to the authorities. That decision ruined the rest of their lives, and they will never be able to escape the life of a charged sex offender. There have been countless other incidents of people using technology to broadcast their illegal activity, without realizing they are incriminating themselves by proving their guilt with evidence. It isn't until after an incident occurs that people learn from watching someone else's mistakes, and it is horrific that today's generation is so incapable of making good decisions right of the bat in so many situations. It is today's technology that is proving to influence and create bad decision makers, on and off the internet.
Although modern technology has many negative impacts on society, especially on younger generations, it has its benefits as well. Our developed nation is one of the most successful in creating and utilizing new technology constantly. It represents the innovation of man and our increasing advancement in human society, which is certainly something to be proud of. Technology has proven extremely beneficial in health care, education, and defense. In the medical field, technology has improved tremendously and the medical advancements we've made in the past years have been able to save so many lives. The use of modern technology in health care has helped us diagnose the most dangerous diseases through vaccinations, drugs and medicines with endless research saved from the beginning of time and shared with anyone who chooses to access it. Devices created for medical purposes to examine and determine a diagnosis in patients has helped doctors catch diseases early and allow them to provide the best possible treatment for their patients, saving many lives that wouldn't have been saved without recent technology. A new device that is in the works of being created for doctors is a supercomputer known as Watson. This device is intended to help physicians make more accurate diagnoses and recommend proper treatments. It would also stay updated on new medical research and analyze treatment options, as well as keep track of patient history. This specific device will begin testing by doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York later this year. More technology is in the process of being created to specifically help doctors communicate easily with other doctors as well as their patients. A new social networking site exclusive to physicians, Doximity, has been created to help doctors work better together to take care of their patients. It's improvements like these in technology that are changing the world drastically in a positive way. Programs like Watson and Doximity are just the beginning of what technology can do to help the medical world in saving lives every day.
In today's society, education is the key to success. Thanks to technological advancements, new methods of learning and teaching have become much more simple and easily accessible. Simple classroom items such as smart boards, projectors, and classroom laptops enhance ones educational experience more than most realize. Having constant access to the internet in an educational setting makes it easy for students to research and study on their own and at their own leisure, increasing the depth of their knowledge. The internet is an ocean of information that any student can utilize to expand their mind and become educated in anything they please. In most high school and college environments, students have the option to take a class online, and even earn a degree electronically. New technology provides endless options for students, and gaining an education is made so much easier through the devices that have been created.
One of the most important benefits of today's advanced technology is it's development in defense for our military. In order for any nation to progress, peace, stability and the reassurance of safety are absolute necessities. We've come a long way from shotguns and rifles, and our improvement in technology of army weapons strengthens our military's defense front, thus protecting us from outside nations. It has been proven throughout history that nations with the most advanced defense equipment almost always came out on top in battles or war. We must constantly be developing newer and stronger weapons than other countries, which is why our nation's technology is advancing so often. In aspects such as these, advancement in technology is not only beneficial, but crucial. Technology can help our nation grow and prosper in a world that is advancing every day.
Though there are countless arguments both for and against advances in technology, at the end of the day, more harm than good is done to humans from it. Technology was originally created to offer efficiency, not humanity. It isn't technology that manipulates the human mind, it's ourselves allowing it to. Simple devices shouldn't be able to control our entire lives, yet we're slowly allowing them to. We fear what technology is doing to mankind, but it can only mentally affect people as much as they let it. It is no doubt that technology has the power to assist us and benefit us as individuals rather than just a nation, but humans have chosen to create unhealthy reliances to technology instead, turning it into something negative. Technology is the lock, but humans hold the key.
In conclusion, technological advancements have no doubt changed our world completely. This is important to me because, as a teenager, I know what it means and what it takes to stay updated in every day life. I, like most of society, have fallen victim to the trap set by technology. Without a device at hand, I instantly feel helpless and disconnected. Researching this particular topic made me realize how unhealthy my connection with technology truly is, and the long term affects it can have on myself and the rest of my generation. This is an issue that every human can relate to, and it's important to take a step back and learn the amount of damage we are creating if we don't realize our mistakes now. We have created a culture of distraction, and in doing so are hindering our ability as humans to properly interact, losing our ability to retain the most basic information, and turning our impulses into bad decisions. The future can only rely on our generation to keep our nation prospering, and it is time a change is made to ensure we can keep our world moving forward.