After mothballing my blog for more than a year, I succumb to numerous requests for a piece. Hitherto, the use of the first-person singular has always been avoided in all my writings, especially texts that are public. With my recent preoccupation, I have adapted to different writing styles as a result of switching between academic and political writing, neither of which accepts the use of the first person as appropriate. For the purpose of distinguishing from academic or political text, this piece, I shall for the first time apply myself to the text, in relation to the topic of interest.
To-day, we spend our lives sitting in front of a computer or television, we are becoming more and more remote, like robots, lacking humanity. It is sporadic in the developed and much of the developing world, to find refuge from a screen, and even fewer places are exempted from the networks that bind all these devises together. We are colonised by a web of signals and interfaces, which has spread like a malignant tumour, beyond communication at the workplace or home, to airports, schools, churches and places of organised leisure.
While attending a concert, more often than not, the front row is made up of faces glowing behind camera lenses, with the performance being consumed from a secondary medium or often being recorded inattentively, to peruse at a later date. Being in the moment and subsequently exchanging with friends, opinions about the highlights of the night, is a thing of antiquity. Documentation has replaced experience and the self is now the selfie. At times it seems the event itself is of secondary importance to the massive digital activity that crowds around it. From the social media boosterism beforehand to the online comments emerging in the course of the event, quite similar to Sunday evening Twitter, where everybody is watching a show and busy talking about it while it is underway.
No concert, hang-out session, or party can be enjoyed without taking the time to distance yourself from what you are doing, to make sure that those in your digital world know instantly how much fun you are having. The young are engulfed in a virtual world of tweets, status updates and “posting pictures of my dinner”, where the currency of popularity is traded in likes and comments on the social-sharing apps. We are so used to being stimulated all the time, so used to being on telecommunications, are not used to sitting with their own thoughts.
In examining the development of technology, particularly post the 3rd Industrial Revolution, analysis must focus on what the physical medium entails, to assist in determining how it influences our thinking, feelings and actions. The internet in no longer a medium that we access at certain moments through designated devices, but rather an environment we are permanently occupying, always on, transmitting and receiving. This has severe impacts on the development of humans as a race.
Without qualified medical diagnosis, I am certain that I am not thinking today as I used to. Over the past few years, I have experienced an uncomfortable evolution in my brain, with my neural circuitry remapped, and memory reprogrammed. Whether online or not, my mind has adapted to taking information the way the internet distributes it. Reading printed text is a hustle, my concentration drifts after a few paragraphs, followed by immediate fidgeting, the I lose the thread and look for something else to do. Instead of reading from left to right, top to bottom and absorbing the entire piece, I skim around the page, looking out for key information, like in a web page.
It is true that following a prolonged time on the internet, one struggles to readjust to non-digitalised elements of our daily life. This corroborates medical assertions that “our brain is modified on a substantial scale, physically and functionally, each time we learn a new skill or develop a new ability”, such a rumination ascertains that the internet has power to cause fundamental changes to our mental makeup.
When used excessively, digital technology- such as internet use, smart phones and computers- cause deterioration of brain function, which is medically referred to as Digital Dementia. This is characterised by unbalanced brain development, with heavy users developing their left brains more than the right. The right side of the brain is associated with creativity and emotional thought, factors that deteriorate as we invariably rely on Apps, we then develop what I call “Is there an app for that Syndrome”.
Our generation, is engulfed in Apps, young people today seek and easy solutions, as would be provided by an App. The exploratory path to discovering knowledge is replaced by a host of apps and search algorithms, which have prompted the young to avoid inquisitiveness when there is no “app for that”.
We have developed a symbiotic relationship with computer tools, which teach us to think like they operate. Using the brain to store information is no longer an efficient human physiological function, instead of remembering information by knowing, like computers, we remember by knowing where the information can be found. The information age is ironically resulting in humans knowing less instead of knowing more.
In conclusion, I ask the question, “who gets to know more?” Generally, technology magnifies power. Facebook may give power to activists to organise themselves online, however the authority will use the Facebook to identify the activists. Computer technologies are not tools of emancipation, they are an apparatus of control, designed to monitor and influence human behaviours. As we spend time filling online databases with details of our lives and desires, the establishment grows more capable of discovering and exploiting our patterns of behaviour. Computer technologies have inundated us with an unprecedented amount of data, most of which for us, is unusable in any practical sense. On the part of our generation, the true result of this has been an increase in human anxiety, as we try to keep up with the growing stream of information. Our nervous systems experience more stimulation than our intellects do and we are becoming more of robots and less human.