Brad Paisley has a song, “Welcome to the Future”, where he reminisces about childhood wishes, such as being able to watch TV on long trips and having arcade games at home. Now these things are available on his phone, from the palm of his hand. This kind of modernization is exciting and intoxicating. What was once thought impossible is now possible. We are lead to believe that if we just get connected and live in the digital stratosphere our lives will be easier, simpler, and smarter. With a simple press of a button we can manage bank accounts, buy products, play a game, or connect with people and brands we love. Even social media sites provide the ability to connect, but without face-to-face or telephonic conversations. We are easily convinced to join, like, share, upload, click, or check in. But, what’s the price we pay to reach ultimate connectivity? Is being so digitally connected really helping us or making us smarter?
A 2012 research report by Pew Research Center describes how analysts believe many young people growing up in today’s networked world and counting on the Internet as their external brain will be nimble analysts and decision-makers who will do well. However, these experts also expect that constantly connected teens and young adults will thirst for instant gratification and often make quick, shallow choices. Survey respondents think educational reform and greater emphasis on social skills will be necessary in the future. Moreover, 42 percent of survey respondents agreed with the statement:
“In 2020, the brains of multitasking teens and young adults are ‘wired’ differently from those over age 35 and overall it yields baleful results”
The survey presents some interesting insights about concerns in the decline of deep analytical skills, critical thinking, and the ability of young adults to focus for long periods of time. Yet, Christopher Ferguson’s main point is that America is in a state of “moral panic.” This state of moral alarm is very similar to the outrage that shook up the nation’s prevailing, orthodox mores at the advent of cultural events such as comic books, rock and roll, and Dungeons and Dragons.
Is emerging technology presenting truly smarter options or are we sacrificing precious social and analytical skills in order to live by machine? As Sophocles once said, “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.”