Do we rely too much on technology?

Have we become too dependent on technology? Are we losing the ability or willingness to think and memorise? How many of us today know the phone numbers of our friends and family? Computers, cell phones, iPads and tablets are wonderful things but our ability to think individually is definitely being diminished as far as I am concerned.

My brother-in-law seems not to agree with me on this as, in response to a comment on Face Book saying that we are becoming too dependent on computers, he wrote “I disagree, computers make the brain smarter. Remember too that human brains invented and designed them [computers]. I don’t think I could function without them. In fact, when we have a storm like this afternoon, we switch off the modem and read a book, can’t work.” At least he read a book and gained knowledge that way!

How computers can make a person smarter I am not sure, unless he means we can glean a lot of information through using them. I agree that it was through the use of the human brain that computers were and, continue to be, designed and upgraded and that the equipment is extremely useful. I am writing this on a computer and will be very upset if the electricity goes off! Agreed, I don’t run a business on my computer as my brother-in-law does, but it amazes me how many people, both children and adults cannot survive without their cell phones and i-pads etc. Sometimes trying to have a conversation with them is a real challenge.

It is that kind of dependence which makes me ask, ‘Are we losing our ability to think for ourselves?’ Plagiarism and collating information is just the press of a button away. It is rarely necessary to take that information and compare it with another person’s because that is usually already done for us. I witnessed a young pupil do a project on Sudan a couple of months ago. She ‘Googled’ the word Sudan, did a lot of cutting and pasting, printed some pictures and the project was completed in less than an hour. When I asked her what she had learnt about Sudan she said nothing much and anyway, it didn’t matter as she got a good grade for it. What was the point of the exercise? Where was the fun in learning something about a foreign country?

Now I love the fact that I can find whatever I want or need on the internet but why not make some of the discoveries a reason for discussion? Maybe I am just old fashioned, at the tender age of just over 60, but I think that there is great fun in discussing, debating and adding to our ability to retain information. Now that definitely can make us smarter, I believe.

Some experiences where I consider the reliance on technology has gone a bit too far are:

Recently I gave a bank teller R100 note in payment for R80 and he gave me R20 change. Right you say. Well yes, but it was all in coins! When I asked if I could have a single note he replied, “That is what the computer says I must give you.” It seems that this is necessary so that there are no problems or delays when cashing up later. Does cashing-up now mean the computer will tell you what you have received, what you paid out and how much, and in which denominations, you have left? No thinking or doing addition and subtraction necessary?

Similarly, when one pays for goods the cashier does not have to think at all. It is a matter of passing the goods in front of the bar code reader, pressing a button for the total and then another button to know how much the customer owes and again to know how much change to give. Why are they there at all? Even a pre-teen could do this job. The only thing preventing their being employed is the law probably.

The most irritating is, when going to a bank to draw cash, they are off-line. A note on the ATM screen will usually tell you where to find the nearest ATM but what if you cannot get there? If one should want to do an over the counter withdrawal and the system is off-line, the response is ‘sorry but we cannot assist you.’ Prior to computerised banking one could get money without a problem. It was written in your book and they gave you the cash. When I once enquired why a similar method could not be used, I was told that they could not be sure I had the money in my account! That was not a problem previously. It seems that we live in such a suspicious and unreliable society in which there is no trust unless a non-human can vouch for you.

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One Comment

  1. I agree – it bugs me that the so many of our matric students cant add without a calculator or write a write a simple sentence in English without using proper grammar and spelling – I too love my computer and my blackberry but I can spell and add without them!

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