Opinion

Coping With Cognitive Impairment

SRINIVAS BALAGOPAL

STAFF WRITER

We all remember Arthur Weasley’s famous one-liner from “Harry Potter: The Chamber of Secrets”: “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

A Kaspersky Lab study found that 70 percent of us suffer from “digital
amnesia,” which includes not remembering the phone numbers of those closest to us. Try it for yourself: If I were to
ask you to recite Pinewood’s main phone number, could you do so? Your first
inclination would probably be to think that you wouldn’t actually need to
remember it, simply because you
could just look it up on the main Pinewood website.

In 2003, Fairfield University asked participants to look around a museum. Some were asked to observe, while
others were asked to photograph.
Those who took photos of each object remembered the details of fewer objects than those who simply observed.
Those pictures were added to smartphones and cloud storage, but were not
committed to memory. We certainly remember where to find the information, but not necessarily what the information was. It’s as
if we are outsourcing our memories.

Growing up in Silicon Valley, most of us realize that it’s not all about technology. Fire was considered technology and so was the wheel. Technology has aided us and made us both more effective and efficient. But now we have a form of
it that is somehow more invasive.

Sure, it aids us, but it also asks us
to share information about ourselves
and then stores it for us, saving us the bother of remembering it. I remember someone joking, “That’s all the RAM
I have.” It was a throwaway comment, but on reflection, it feels as if we are equating the brain’s processing power
to that of our own creations.

In his book, “The Shallows: What
the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,”
author Nicholas Carr states that
technology is inducing humanity’s intellectual decay.

“It’s through remembering that we make connections with what we know, what we feel, and this gives rise to
personal knowledge,” Carr writes.

“Our pervasive use of technology
is causing children to have shorter
attention spans and impaired language skills. Teachers throughout the country are lamenting the fact that kids today can’t recall their time tables like they used to,” Dr. Kristy Goodwin, a child learning researcher in Sydney said.
In fact, a Microsoft study found that the human attention span has fallen
by twelve seconds since 2000. There’s even a term for this:
cognitive offloading.

I love the fact that I can search for
virtually anything and get that
information delivered to me instantaneously. But I also remember that
what is delivered is information – not
actual knowledge.

Information can never be knowledge without our remembering, paying
attention, or cogitating. So, is technology making us dumber? Only if we
let it!

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