There are plenty of negatives associated with smart technology—texting and driving or blue light rays inhibiting sleep. But now we can be assured that the digital age is not making us dumber, according to a new study.
While some might struggle to find places without Google Maps, the researchers found that the digital age is not sapping away any brainpower.
“Despite the headlines, there is no scientific evidence that shows that smartphones and digital technology harm our biological cognitive abilities,” says the University of Cincinnati professor Anthony Chemero, who co-authored a new paper in Nature Human Behavior.
In the paper, Dr. Chemero and colleagues at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management expound on the evolution of the digital age, explaining how smart technology supplements thinking, thus helping us to excel.
“What smartphones and digital technology seem to do instead is to change the ways in which we engage our biological cognitive abilities,” Chemero says, adding “these changes are actually cognitively beneficial.”
Computers, tablets, and smartphones assist with memorization, calculation, and storing information and presenting it when you need it. Because our phones can direct us to where we want to go, can solve mathematical problems with ease, and memorize phone numbers, our brains can use that energy for other uses.
Additionally, smart technology allows us to make decisions that we would find difficult to make on our own. For example, using GPS technology we can choose a route based on traffic conditions or whether to take a more scenic route.
For example, he says, your smart phone knows the way to the baseball stadium so that you don’t have to dig out a map or ask for directions, which frees up brain energy to think about something else. The same holds true in a professional setting: “We’re not solving complex mathematical problems with pen and paper or memorizing phone numbers in 2021.”
Albert Einstein once described how he never memorized anything, so he could use his brain power for forming ideas.
“You put all this technology together with a naked human brain and you get something that’s smarter…and the result is that we, supplemented by our technology, are actually capable of accomplishing much more complex tasks than we could with our un-supplemented biological abilities,” added Chemero.
“While there may be other consequences to smart technology, making us stupid is not one of them.”