Monday, February 26

Are we too dependent on technology?, Marketing & Advertising News, ET BrandEquity

Representative image (Source: iStock)

Without a doubt, technology has made life easier, more convenient, safer and enjoyable and the more it has advanced, the greater its impact on society. Technology has acted as the great enabler of the modern age. Cars, planes, Google, smartphones, computers, business software – all make us more efficient.

The invention of GPS has revolutionised travel and its mass adoption has made it easy for people to find destinations with ease. Map apps even pinpoint faster routes and the roads to avoid because of accidents or other blockades that slow down traffic. This has revolutionised public transport such as Ola and Uber. Most planes fly on autopilot today and the day is not far when cars would be driven by computers.

The Upside

Conducting research was a major challenge barely 20 years ago. Undertaking research meant visiting the nearest library, which could be miles away. Even thereafter, one couldn’t be sure if the required data would be available.

Come Circa 1995 internet emerges as an unlimited source of information, making it easier to research and acquire knowledge via zillions of different pages. Circa 2022 more than 2.4 million searches happen through search engines every minute.

Almost all those from Gen X would recall that before technology changed everything, entertainment was limited to movies, the circus or having dinner with friends. After television was introduced, people no longer liked to leave their homes for entertainment.

The ability to consume entertainment became more convenient because of technology. Nowadays, there are more home entertainment options than external ones – streaming myriad movies, TV series, sports and so on from the mobile, TV or laptop.

While the above categories are generally termed passive entertainment, there are millions of video games for all age groups that keep people engaged without ever leaving their homes. The recent integration of virtual reality in video games only augments the highest forms of entertainment.

Since human beings are social creatures, they need to interact with other humans. However, the advent of technology slowly eroded the need to interact in person. The ever-growing usage of WhatsApp, Instagram, Telegram, Facebook and other social media groups has eliminated an urge to meet people physically. Research indicates that more than 100 billion messages are sent each day via WhatsApp.

Introduced barely 12 years ago, Instagram is the fourth most-used social platform with around 1.2 billion monthly users. Cohorts between 16 and 24 years particularly prefer Instagram more than other social media platforms.

Similarly, Zoom Meetings may be the world’s most-used web conferencing platform. Launched in 2013, the Zoom mobile app was downloaded over 500 million times in 2020. Zoom now records 3.3 trillion-plus annual meeting minutes. This is truly the good side of technology with its utility based innovations.

The Downside

But there is a flip side too. For instance, it’s well-known that London taxi drivers are excellent navigators. To obtain a licence, they need to undergo the famous “Knowledge of London” test, which requires memorizing hundreds of routes and landmarks to demonstrate their knowledge in test situations.

Thanks to GPS, this acquired knowledge is now under threat. When humans become too dependent on technology for navigation, parts of the brain no longer remain in use. Consequently, they stop growing. Most people now take routine instructions from their GPS to remove the stress of human navigation. But scientists have discovered that an underactive hippocampus (region of the brain that is associated primarily with memory) holds wide implications for human health and well-being, especially for child development, mental health and dementia.

Like the muscles, brains also become weak and unhealthy from the lack of exercise. Thereby, memory power and cognitive ability suffer a steady decline, impacting overall health. The human mind has virtually unlimited potential and the secret to unlocking this lies in memory training.

In the current fast-paced knowledge economy, the success of any organization depends on information – as well as the ability of their employees and leaders to master this. Considering the massive mounds of information people deal with daily, quickly recalling crucial information remains a key business skill.

But a lapse in memory at the wrong moment could hurt business equations or end unsuccessfully for a sales pitch. By becoming over-dependent on technology, human brains lose focus. This is detrimental to both personal and professional growth.

By not using their brains to their full potential, humans are more dependent on technology, making it an extension of themselves. Meanwhile, tech devices are only getting smarter. Phones now have biometrics instead of passwords; they serve as wallets and have voice-activated virtual assistants and apps for almost every task imaginable, which makes human skills redundant.

Forgetting simple things such as phone numbers may seem trivial. But the big concern is that as humans become more dependent on technology to remember phone numbers and other important things, their very ability to learn and retain information of any kind is increasingly compromised.

Each time a person reaches for his/her smartphone to check the information that could easily have been remembered, human memories are being weakened while cognitive capabilities are being compromised.

Once we understand this simple truth, it is never too late to turn the clock back by drastically minimizing our reliance on technology.

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