Just English Magazine Articles

The Smartphone Dumb Down


Many people these days have grown up in a world where computers are something you take for granted. Smartphones are essentially a personal computer and has become a basic necessity of life. But it has not always been like this. If you speak to someone over the age of 40, they will tell you with glee that they completed their education and functioned perfectly fine without a PC. Personal computers have not only got smaller, but also faster and capable of mind blowing operations. Your average smartphone has more capacity and is around 120,000,000 quicker than all of NASA’s computers used to get Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong and crew to the moon and back.

So, with all this power at our fingertips, what are we doing with it?  Are we using PCs to expand our minds and explorations into areas that were once off limits to the average person?  My gut feeling is, we are not. Yes, we may do a bit of research for a school, university or work project, but that is hardly taking full advantage of the machine in front of us.

One bad habit many of us have picked up is the “copy paste syndrome” where we just copy and paste chunks of text from various authors into one unit. We do not need to investigate anything because someone somewhere on the Internet has already done it. However, perhaps what is more important is the journey, not just the destination. For instance, how many phone numbers have you in your head right now? Not many, if any; we do not need to remember them as they are saved on our phones. What about drawing? If you need an image or even a simple graph, the PC will create a flawless one for you.

Research seems to back this up. A study by Betsy Sparrow was published by Columbia University in 2011 showed that easy access to search engines was changing the way we utilise our memories. We retain and recall less of the information but have increased recollection of where we found the information. On the surface this looks positive. However, years of cognitive science research shows that skills like critical thinking and problem-solving are only developed in the context of factual knowledge.

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gut feeling (idiom) – based on feelings or instinct rather than logic.
flawless (adj) – without faults and therefore perfect.
cognitive (adj) – connected with mental processes of understanding.

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