by Dr. Mercola, 14 April 2018
- In the beginning, there were only a few ways to get new technology funded, known as the ABCs. “A” for armed forces, “B” for bureaucracy and “C” for corporate power; social engagement is the new driver of technology that has taken off more so in recent years
- The environmental stimuli that come through screens may be keeping us permanently distracted, such that we’re unable to engage in deep thinking and knowledge
- While the internet is viewed as a way to bring the world to our fingertips, there are those who say it’s actually a tool for amplifying the voice of corporate control
- We tend to think about the internet as this medium where we can connect to everything and anyone, but in actuality most of the information is flowing through a couple of major gatekeepers, such as Google
- You can customize and filter what you see, but how these things are architected actually may keep you in a carefully constructed bubble
Technology didn’t come about by accident, it’s a reflection of human will, or so claims the intriguing documentary, “Stare Into the Lights My Pretties.” Yet, with the rate of technological development continuing to grow exponentially, it’s unclear if anyone envisioned how society would become obsessed with staring at screens, such that our waking hours are dominated by them in one form or another.
In the beginning, there were only a few ways to get new technology funded, known as the ABCs. “A,” for armed forces, included ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which commissioned the work that started the internet. “B,” for bureaucracy, refers to innovations such as government sites intended to deliver information and services, including online tax returns. “C,” or corporate power, made up the third arm, which drove the development of new products to draw in new markets.
According to Lelia Green, a professor and senior lecturer at the school of communications at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia, who is featured in the film, “Google would offer many examples of corporate power driving development.”1 Yet, social engagement is the new driver of technology that has taken off more so in recent years. Green notes that distributed collaborators and everyday innovators are now an important driver of technology.
“The acknowledgement of distributed networks of collaborators allows recognition of the creative power of ‘harnessing the hive;’ the community of people engaged in a shared activity,” she says. “We see these alliances of enthusiasts working creatively and productively in gaming contexts, in wikis and on fan fiction sites — to name but a few,” but what does all of this mean, and what will happen if this technological culture is left to continue unchecked?
Are Machines Running Our Lives?
At the foundation of the documentary is the unsettling question of who’s really in control: the machines or us? The film gives some unsettling statistics of how integrated technology has become in our 21st century lives:
- Over 3.8 billion people have access to the internet
- There are 2 billion active Facebook users every month
- The average adult spends more than eight hours a day with screens (more time than sleep)
- Within the first 15 minutes of waking up, 4 out of 5 smartphone users check their phones
- By the time the average person reaches 70, they will have spent the equivalent of 10 to 15 years of their life watching television, more than four years of which was just for the ads
What does this mean for your brain? “As a neuroscientist, I know that the human brain is changing. I know that it’s highly plastic … it’s very dynamic, it will adapt to the environment,” says Susan Greenfield in the film. But the environmental stimuli that come through screens may be keeping us permanently distracted. You read an article online, then see an instant message pop up or go to check an email.
Then you click on an advertisement, and suddenly are watching a video about an entirely unrelated topic. It’s easy to get swept away into the internet bubble, which can have both benefits and risks. Greenfield explained:
“I’ve often spoken about the benefits of screen culture being one of agile processing, but how that mustn’t be confused with content … it could be linked to high IQ, because the skills that you rehearsed when you play video games are similar to the skills required to do well on an IQ test.
You don’t need a lot of facts or infrastructure … but you have to be very agile at looking at patterns and connections and getting to an answer in a very fast time frame … just because, as many claim, we’re seeing an increase in IQ scores in many societies, we’re not seeing an increase in empathy and understanding.”
In a meta-analysis of 116 studies published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience,2 for example, which set out to determine what effects gaming has on your brain, the evidence suggests that video games may benefit attention, and video game players show improvements in selective attention, divided attention and sustained attention, as well as areas of cognitive control and visuospatial skills.
The downside may be their effects on reward processing areas of your brain. Many such areas have been shown to be affected in people with video game addiction, “an impulse-control disorder with psychological consequences, not unlike other addictive disorders, especially nonsubstance addictions such as pathological gambling,” the study noted.3 “On the one hand, yes it’s very good for mental processing, fluid intelligence,” Greenfield said, “ … but that’s not the same as understanding. Information is not knowledge.”
Are Screens Leaving Us Incapable of Deep Thinking, Addicted to Constant Scrolling?