“. . .excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function.” 1)
This well-documented research mostly deals with the brains of small children. I recently had, however, an interesting conversation with friends and colleagues about their ability to remember disparate facts.
These are people with university degrees and established positions. Everyone in the conversation agreed that they no longer remember as well as they used to and we all laughed that our brains are getting old and wearing out. Then one man said, “I think it’s Google’s fault.” When we stopped laughing I asked him to expand on the thought.
His premise was that in decades past facts were kept in reference books and you needed to look up something if you forgot it. Indeed, I remember conversations around the dinner table where my mother and, later, I would leave the table to look up something because no one remembered it exactly.
Today our devices keep everything at our finger tips. The spellchecker corrects as I type and my cell automatically dials favorite phone numbers so I don’t have to remember them. Google is now a verb and we google everything.
Does having so much information so readily available train our brains to forget details? Is this progress? Perhaps.
A widely circulated myth proposes that we only use 10% of our brain. Numerous scientists and researchers refute this strongly. I suspect, however, that cognitive areas that aren’t used gradually fade. For example, I don’t conjugate Russian verbs as rapidly as I did when I used the language every day.
Technology helps us in so many ways from transportation to communication to manufacturing to simply taking the drudgery out of household tasks. Why wouldn’t we let that same technology take some of the heavy lifting off our brains? If I no longer store 20 phone numbers perhaps the extra brain power will produce an innovation or a short story.
As the information revolution continues to automate jobs, in theory we should have more time for the creative, including new skills and entrepreneurial endeavors which will, in turn, provide jobs.
What do you think? Do you remember phone numbers and calendared items? Have the automated services changed the way your brain functions?
1) Victoria Dunckley M.D. writing in Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain