Is your smartphone making you dumb?

We have contracted out our intelligence so far, that in many ways we have become as dumb as our addiction to our internet pocket rocket.

We are all processing vast amounts of data from the moment we get up to the moment we go to sleep. Even in sleep, we are still processing data. Most of the time we are doing this subconsciously, we don’t think about it. We are information processing demi-gods honed to perfection after millions of years of Darwinian improvements.

A painting called "An Allegory of Folly"
“An Allegory of Folly” by Quentin Matsys

For the first time in human history, we are now on the brink of information overload as the ever connected internet deluges us in data from our PC, TV, tablet, and smartphones. This information flood has swamped us so quickly in the last decade that our genetic divergence can not evolve fast enough to upgrade your biological CPU.

To cope, we are all starting to rely on an old friend, the hypothalamus. The brain’s filtering mechanism acts as a gatekeeper to our long-term memory. Since it is now more than ever in over-drive, we are becoming reliant on other strategies to store and recall basic information. For a lot of us, this is the ever present app. Evernote to the rescue opened multiple times per day so that we might function. A To-Do List app keeping our daily tasks in check. Google calendar and reminder alerts scheduling our lives.

Like many people dear reader this writer has sub-contracted part of his intellect to the collective app hive mind. But it gets worse, I used to be good at times tables, now even basic maths is googled instead of calculated. Spelling, we all started degrading this skillset years ago with the now common word processor led spelling and grammar check. These days we get the proofreading, that important check on our expedient need to protect our dignity in type, as part of the interactive writing process. We used to do this manually many times and in an iterative pattern. Alas no more, those little red lines we can tap on to correct us as we have all but removed this skill from our humanity.

Remember the last time you made eye contact when you had a conversation with someone, I think I do, but I will have to double check on my timeline app. In place of the art of conversation and reading the emotive substance of an expression we are reduced to short word form grunting while looking for Schadenfreude on Facebook. Perhaps the French or Italians will rescue us from our dumbed down interpersonal communications by inventing an arm waving app.

Oh, and remember we discussed sleep at the being of this, well there’s an app for helping us do that now. We have contracted out our intelligence so far, that in many ways we have become as dumb as our addiction to our internet pocket rocket.