Addiction, dependency or enhancement?

Thinking a bit more about technology it strikes me there are three different ways of considering the effect it’s having on us. The first is that it’s becoming an addiction, which I wrote a bit about the other day and there are plenty of people trying to use psychological tricks to make us click on more ads.

The second is that we’re becoming dependent on it because it is genuinely useful, which I find less troubling. As Julian Baggini writes in this weekend’s FT:

“Some find our increased reliance on such mental prosthetics troubling. Will a generation that can google everything, everywhere grow up unable to remember anything? Any gains should outweigh the losses. Brain power is a finite resource and we don’t want to use it all up on data storage and retrieval. After all, savants who remember everything often understand very little. Being able to outsource some of the grunt work of cognition frees up our brains to do the interesting, creative processing of the information. The best way of keeping our minds engaged and active might well be to let them extend far outside our skulls.”

Finally there’s the possibility that digital technology is actually enhancing us. Not just freeing up time and headspace to do the same things better but making us more powerful and able to do things that human beings have never done before. As the years go by, that becomes an ever more likely possibility and one that we’re only just beginning to really think through.

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