Saturday, March 7, 2015

Animal + Machine

A fear of technology and its repercussions has accompanied every technological innovation since the dawn of time.  Even the invention of writing had its downside- it devalued memorization and public speaking.  As these skills became less valued and used it altered the development of the human brain.

So much good obviously also came with the invention of the written word as well; more complex thought, the ability to convey meaning through symbols, and the systemization of language.  The innovation of writing forced our squishy, flexible brains to change.  Parts of the brain worked harder, growing in size, while other parts were silenced for the most part, shrinking from lack of use.

Evolutionarily these changes happened over many generations.  BUT they also happen over a lifetime, between your ears!  Our brains have a great deal of flexibility, and are impacted by how we use them throughout our lives.

Like most, my concern is with the smartphone.  Having a tiny, powerful computer within arm's reach at all times has changed the way that we engage with the world.  It's difficult to even recognize all of the ways the world has changed with the popularity of the smartphone, nevertheless categorize those changes as good or bad.

The change that I've recently become aware of is the way that our phones banish boredom from our lives that are full of traffic, long lines, and waiting rooms.  I initially started thinking about this because of the amazing piece on boredom and creativity on the podcast Studio 360 (Give it a listen!)

When we exile boredom from our lives, we cut out time for unrestricted, off the wall thought- like those creative gems that come to you in the shower.  We've greatly restricted those moments in our lives, and it's threatening to move our species away from creative thought and even self reflection.

For myself, I've found that a lack of boredom actually makes me less interesting. When I don't have those blank moments of boredom in my own life, I have less to talk about and less to contribute in my life.  I have less deep thought, and my life is instead full of work, photos, comments, and word games.

I haven't made any super drastic steps yet, but I have decided to delete all of the games off my phone. Their only purpose seemed to be as boredom zappers.  I also downloaded Hanx writer a typewriter app.  The cool set up has encouraged me to think and write, instead of virtually twiddling my thumbs.

Creativity springing out of the smartphone, our new age is not all bad...