Is Technology Making Us Dumber?


A dumb person is someone who is unable to speak or is empty headed. Short answer — Yes. Look at society! Better answer — it depends on how we define intelligence to be. Intelligence to me, and several researchers across the globe, is two-fold. Some of us come from the stance that there are different kinds of intelligences with functions that can be quantifiable. These two intelligences are — Fluid and Crystallized Intelligences or IQ’s. Fluid intelligence, which can be understood as our capacity to reason without any knowledge acquired from the past, is one type. Crystalized IQ, which can be understood as knowledge that we actually have in our heads, is another. So is technology making us dumber?

If we look strictly at the shift in levels of crystallized intelligence acquisition, I think so. There is little doubt that our internal knowledge base is shrinking because of the knowledge outsourcing facilitated by technology. The accessibility of information 24/7 has shifted our motives away from developing Crystallized Intelligence simply because information is widely available to us at our fingertips. This is precisely why students don’t like to be lectured to or do any work in class in which they don’t have control of, including reading the course’s book or the game developed by the instructor to scaffold crystallized knowledge acquisition.  Why memorize new content (or play with this classroom technology) if we can find that information in a knowledge bank somewhere on-line, probably quicker?  This is what they are thinking. As a result, subjects have become more empty headed and less prone to pursuing activities that help increase their Crystallized IQ’s, which could be colloquially defined as being dumb. Subjects then lack Crystalized Intelligence sophistication due to the fact that they believe they can efficiently solve problems without having to internalize content. Big mistake. We need both intelligences as different problems call for different approaches to problem solving. Easily said than done!

The goofy thing about this controversial debate is that a decrease in population crystallized intelligence due to the overwhelming adoption of technology in our society has consequences that transcend the construct of dumbness.  The continuos mean increase in fluid intelligence among the people in the past 15 years, perhaps because of the wide adoption of technology in society, has significant implications to the question of intelligence.  Although technology can indeed scaffold fluid knowledge acquisition decline due to the degeneration of the right cerebellum, it can also serve as an anti-tool against the functions of the Hippocampus, assuming that the subject relies long term on using GPS technology for navigation. The over-use of GPS technology can result in significant side effects to one’s memory in later years, which in itself can also be defined as a dumb decision. So an intelligent person asks, “Is it worth gambling my own hippocampus functions for the sake of fluid intelligence development using GPS technology? Should I then always use technology to constantly solve problems without relying on my own internal knowledge base? Not to me. I would rather develop both Crystallized and Fluid IQ.

So, is technology making us dumber? It depends which intelligence you are referring to. Some argue yes… Others no. The results are inconclusive at this point. To me — yes. What do you think?


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