As a teenager I was fascinated by the idea that moving about in physical space triggers the construction of pathways in the brain. The idea was that when you take a different route to and from your destinations you’re actively rewiring your brain. The idea that somewhere in my brain I was creating a “map” of the physical world in which I live fascinated me.
Today, some scientists propose that a similar phenomenon may be happening when we interact with technology.
“The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate but also is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains. Daily exposure to high technology—computers, smart phones, video games, search engines […] —stimulates brain cell alteration and neurotransmitter release, gradually strengthening new neural pathways in our brains while weakening old ones. Because of the current technological revolution, our brains are evolving right now—at a speed like never before.” (Small and Vorgan, Scientific American)
My question is which important neural pathways are we weakening and strengthening? How does this affect our thinking? and eventually, how will this affect our societies?
“…our brains are evolving right now—at a speed like never before.”
Evolution is a multi-directional road
The idea that evolution is a one-way route to progress to me seemed like a big assumption. I was annoyed by Darwin until I read that Darwin himself recognized that evolution can move us towards “progress” and away from it.
The notion of evolution is based on nature. The technology we use today is not a “natural” environment but rather it’s the product of different businesses and organizations and it is designed to satisfy business and organizational goals. The obvious question is who represents the interests of people?
This realization reminds us that we must pay attention as to how technology affects us. People are in charge of the technology in their world only as long as they question it, research it, challenge it and shape it in a conscious way.
Scientific American – Your iBrain: How Technology Changes the Way We Think