It’s an amazing accomplishment for humans: We finally live in a world where you can order pizza with an emoji. And while we definitely can’t complain about advancements made in pizza sciences, technology has succeeded in lulling society into a false sense of security. We think that we’re in control of technology–and that it adapts to us–when in reality it could be the other way around.
Technology has the power to change not only our behavior, but our actual physiology. When new technology is introduced, we enthusiastically embrace it and easily change our behavior to match new and perceived capabilities and benefits. Understanding just how tech changes the way we think and act, however, could have you thinking twice about picking up a new tablet or downloading the latest must-have app.
Don’t be afraid: When you work in a tech-heavy industry, it’s necessary to use tech as a powerful ally–not an enemy.
The Precautionary Principle
There is a concept known as the “precautionary principle,” outlined by the U.N. World Charter for Nature. Within the charter, it states that new technology must have benefits that outweigh the damage to nature in order for it to be acceptable. The catch? Humans generally view nearly all technology as beneficial, which means we’re more likely to welcome it into our lives, regardless of the cost.
Whether it’s ordering pizza via emoji or substituting video calls for face-to-face interaction, technology is meant to make life more convenient, and as perpetually time-crunched (and perhaps inherently lazy) beings, humans embrace and adapt to new tech–regardless of the cost. And most of the time, we don’t realize that technology has made that much of a difference in our behavior, chalking the changes up as beneficial. But are those changes really making us better?
A study completed by Columbia University illustrates just how quickly and completely humans have adapted to the spoils of technology. Groups were tested on how well they could remember trivia answers, and it was found that when subjects were told they could later find answers using online search engines, they were less likely to remember the answers. That’s because heavy Internet users typically utilize search engines and the Internet as a supplementary memory center. Rather than store information in the brain, they are content to let technology do the legwork for them.
But memory isn’t the only thing that’s changed with the rise of technology: Everything from the way we locate information (we don’t like to click past the first search engine page) and the way we interact with new devices (we don’t like a steep learning curve) suggests that humans are adapting the tech and not the other way around. When tech changes human behavior and nature, it bears a second look at the repercussions and rewards. Tech adopters may be more efficient and organized, but those benefits are at the cost of memory and social skills.
Our Tech Allies?
Humans love technology because we perceive that its benefits outweigh how it changes us. Whether those changes are for better or for worse–well, that’s left up to the individual. It seems as though with great tech comes great responsibility. We love what it can do for us, but we may need a closer look at what it’s doing to us to completely understand the long-lasting repercussions of teaming up with technology.