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Unashamedly Biased Australian Study Proves Technology is Bad For You
And points to a subjective antidote you already have on the shelf
Life has shown me that people who rely on technology to perform tasks their brain and body are capable of doing alone, tend to feel (and often become) worse at completing these tasks tech-free—but that it doesn’t have to be this way.
I’m using the word technology here to mean any human-created mechanical or digital thing that performs a task we either can’t, or don’t want to do.
When I was driving down the freeway recently, my brain went into that pleasant, timeless state where it starts thinking about and connecting ideas on its own, with conscious me as the observer. This is what the little grey cells told me that day:
If roads had something that forced your car go at the right speed, you probably wouldn’t be very good at regulating how fast you went without it.
Ooh, I thought, as images of the pre and post smartphone and artificial intelligence era danced before my inner eye, This is a big topic with lots of questions to explore! As the trip progressed, all those questions distilled into one: How can I use and enjoy today’s technology without it becoming a negative influence?
You won’t find a neat, easy answer by the end of this article, but you will find a handful of allegorical personal experiences that have taught me more about the effects of technology on the only person I can control (me), than a hundred unbiased studies could have.
TLDR: Your brain and body muscles are capable, and they are in charge. Technology should be used mindfully, purposefully, and with integrity, or not at all.
Kitchen-related examples with a wider application
Two years ago my husband told me that many kitchen appliances will soon be app-controlled. He didn’t like the idea, and neither did I, but why was that? Were we afraid of something? Progress? Change? Hackability? Our ability to remember things going to mush? Being too reliant on tech and therefore unable to function without it?
Fast forward to today, and the Thermomix my son and daughter-in-law just received as a wedding gift can not only plan your menus and cook your food, it can even order the ingredients from your local shop. * shakes head in disbelief *
Call me a Luddite or tight fisted (or both), but when my 2008 model Thermie finally gives up the ghost, I won’t be upgrading. And not just because I don’t particularly like cooking! It’s more that this is an area of my life I’d prefer to keep hands-on, WI-FI free.
When we first got our dishwasher, I told myself (and my oldest daughter, who, even with three young children is happy not to have one) that I planned to continue washing my daily bowl by hand. Well, that didn’t last! I’ve become lazy, more often than not just giving it a quick rinse or leaving it soaking until I stack everything in the dishwasher.
Did the technology make me lazy?
No. That propensity was always there. Tech (the dishwasher) just removed the natural block (lack of an alternative viable choice) that concealed it.
Out of the kitchen and into your brain
If the tech is a tool to make our lives better while not giving up our inherent abilities, surely it can be a good thing, right?
After all, having a piece of technology that makes something easier doesn’t have to mean that the part of our brain or body that would have done that task will inevitably become weaker. For example, people who have cars or transport cards that still choose to walk to nearby locations, and people with access to a washing machine who wash tiny loads by hand.
How can I use and enjoy today’s technology without it becoming a negative influence?
But what about artificial intelligence? Is AI enhancing or eroding our brain’s ability to form ideas and make connections between them?
Both, I think. The wisdom and intentionality of the user determines the outcome.
The new role of AI in note taking apps has some people jumping up and down with excitement. This tech is helping them to see connections between ideas they’d previously recorded and forgotten about, or just not seen how they connected to another idea.
Bravo, I say! While I don’t personally have much experience with this side of note making, I can see the potential value of it. Even so, a part of me wonders if, just like me with the dishwasher, it might not be tempting to eventually let the machine do all the heavy lifting.
I believe there are times we’ll be better off diving into the work of generating, fleshing out, and connecting ideas solely under our own steam.
The importance of staying in charge, and drawing your own conclusions
While I’ve looked at some (hopefully) unbiased scientific studies like this one on the effects of technology and cognition, and this white paper that stresses the need for AI to be trustworthy (stop laughing), the most valuable conclusions I’ve drawn and lessons learned have come from the things I’ve personally observed and experienced.
Your brain and body muscles are capable, and they are in charge. Technology should be used mindfully, purposefully, and with integrity, or not at all.
I’m happy to embrace whatever technology will enhance my intentionally lived life, but I’ll never give it the master key!
And tomorrow after breakfast I’m going to wash my bowl by hand, paying attention to how it feels. I won’t be trying to form a new habit; just to connect with the process again, and remember that while I appreciate what dishwashing technology does for me day in and day out, I don’t need it — or any other technology — to live a calm and happy life.
These observations have come to you from Australia. They’re the result of my own personal study, and that (referring to the title of this article) actually is the point. My study might steer you in the right direction, but only a purposeful study of yourself will reveal what you need to do next.