Has Technology Robbed us of Our Indispensable Ability to Think?

By Janae Gaddy ’20

Since the beginning of time, humans have invented new and innovative ways to make life easier. Many of these advancements have made daily tasks more efficient, have made resources more accessible, or have facilitated means of human interaction. Our modern world would not be the same without the curious individuals who made many of these advancements possible. However, what happens when an invention comes along that seemingly improves all the above qualities of life?

Charles Babbage’s ingenious invention of the computer struck the world with curiosity and wonder. Many were in awe of the invention and could have only hoped to own a computer themselves. With some modification, the idea of owning personal computers became a reality. Since these computers seemed to improve the quality of life for many individuals, the computers turned from an asset into an obsession.

Somewhere along the way, we became a society dependent upon technology. At some point in time, we collectively decided to turn to technology whenever we would seek intellectual enlightenment. The advancement of technology is depriving us of a beautiful gift that was once cherished by mankind: our ability to think for ourselves.

Over the past few decades, our modern world has been experiencing rapid cognitive decline.

Samuel Greengard, author and writer for Baseline Magazine, in his article “Are We Losing Our Ability to Think?” states, “IQ levels in the Western World are on the decline.”

Due to technological dependence and internet addiction, have we not only witnessed a decrease in intelligence quotient levels, but we have also seen that few people know how to use maps and recall phone numbers or addresses. We have become so reliant on technology that if anything were to happen to our devices, many would not know anyone’s contact information or be able to navigate an unknown area. Unplugging from technology, even briefly, would open our eyes to the weight of our technological dependence.

Not only are we living amid a rapid decline in cognitive skills, but our literate population is also decreasing, along with the hobby of reading for pleasure.

In the article “Is technology producing a decline in critical thinking and analysis?” Stuart Wolpert, writer and cyber psychologist from UCLA Newsroom, writes, “Studies show that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary.” He then says, “Reading for pleasure is the key to developing these skills. Students today have more visual literacy and less print literacy. Many students do not read for pleasure and have not for decades.”

By researching Greenfield’s study, Wolpert found that “college students who watched ‘CNN Headline News’ with just the news anchor on screen and without the ‘news crawl’ across the bottom of the screen remembered significantly more facts from the televised broadcast than those who watched it with the distraction of the crawling text and with additional stock market and weather information on the screen.”

The fact that the students were more receptive to the news anchor than the subtitles proves that print literacy is becoming a lost cause. The pleasure of reading is being taken away from society per the advancement of technology.

Another effect the advancement of technology has on our minds is through media influence. Media influence gives us preconceived biases before we intellectually challenge the information for ourselves.

According to an article from the Psychology program at Pennsylvania State University entitled “Our Own Thoughts vs. Media Influence,” “When we hear or see negative media about a specific subject we have already formed our own opinions or thoughts about, we may become swayed by information the media provides that is not always accurate.”

The media can also influence us to form opinions based on what society believes to be acceptable. As a result, we tend to conform to agenda setting, when the media has the power to influence what we believe is important in society. As a society, we have been accustomed to believing the lies of the media, because we no longer challenge its claims with thought.

Technology is gradually stripping us completely of our ability to think for ourselves. This inability to process information autonomously is evident through the nation’s swift cognitive decline, deterioration of literary pleasure, and our credence of the biases in the media. Since the human mind is but a fire to be kindled, we must kindle our fires with sincere and unapologetic thought.