Impacts of Digitization on Humankind

Dr Parveen Singh
In recent years, the widespread availability of digital technology has dramatically changed the way children play, learn, and interact with the world around them.
With so many of us now constantly tethered to digital technology via our smart phones, computers, tablets, and even watches, there is a huge experiment underway that we didn’t exactly sign up for. While technology has the potential to enhance children’s lives in many positive ways, over-digitization is having a number of negative effects that are worth considering.
“We’re all pawns in a grand experiment to be manipulated by digital stimuli to which no one has given explicit consent and I am most worried about the increase in distractibility, the national attention deficit we all suffer from, and the consequences that arise from this.,” Richard Davidson, neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin Madison and founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds says, But what are the results of the experiment? How big Companies Work on Distraction. Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Apple have powerful, pervasive tools to influence, and prey on, our psychology and are competing for our attention, and they’re doing so savvily, knowing the psychological buttons to push to keep us coming back for more. The more adapted to the attention economy we become, the more we fear it could be hurting us. It’s now common for kids to get a Smartphone by age 10. That’s a distraction device they carry in their pockets all the time. In Developed countries more parents are limiting their kids’ screen time and even writing no-screen clauses into their contracts with nannies. Which makes us wonder: Do they know something we don’t?
If it’s true that constant digital distractions are changing our cognitive functions for the worse – leaving many of us more scatterbrained, more prone to lapses in memory, and more anxious – it means we’re living through a profound transformation of human cognition. Or could it be that we’re overreacting, like people in the past that panicked about new technologies such as the printing press or the radio? A big questions that arises how many of you are now a days prone to lapse in memory and what are the reasons.
To find out, I explored internet and discussed with experts how is our constant use of digital technologies affecting our brain health?
The answers, you’ll see, are serious. There’s a lot not known about the connection between media use and brain health in adults and kids yet many people report feeling forgetful or distracted after spending extended periods of time on their devices. One possible explanation is that the use of technology often involves multitasking, where individuals switch their attention between multiple tasks or apps at once. This can lead to cognitive overload, which can make it harder to retain information and maintain focus. Additionally, the constant stream of notifications and alerts can be disruptive to our attention and lead to a fragmented sense of awareness. Moreover, the use of technology can also impact our sleep patterns, which can have a direct impact on memory and attention. Exposure to blue light from screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, making it harder to fall asleep and get a good night’s rest. Lack of sleep, in turn, can impair memory consolidation and cognitive functioning.
We have heard of Vitamin deficiency, Nutrient Deficiencies, Sleep Deficiencies, but now we are facing a new deficiency called Attention deficit. Our attention is being captured by devices rather than being voluntarily regulated. We are like a sailor without a rudder on the ocean – pushed and pulled by the digital stimuli to which we are exposed rather than by the intentional direction of our own mind. This lack of control over our attention is particularly worrisome because it can have serious consequences for our mental health and overall wellbeing. Without the ability to direct our own attention intentionally, we may find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and disconnected from the world around us. As such, it is essential that we take steps to address this national attention deficit and find ways to regain control over our own minds. Have you given consent to any human being, any company, and any product to regulate your attention? You will say no .But the reality is you have. I am telling you, you have. But How? A simple example is we are tending to check our Mobile at least 200-300 times. I am using word atleast 200-300 times a day, for no reason. Still we are saying we are normal because we are reconditioned and are forced to believe that it’s normal, which actually is not. If this is the condition of a well educated, well informed, well matured adult, who has got this Gadget in very later stage of life, see the condition of a child who has been born in the circle of these gadgets. We need to understand what technology does to young, developing minds
Gary Small, author of the book iBrain and director of UCLA’s Memory and Aging Research Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior says.My biggest concern is with young people, whose brains are still developing from birth through adolescence. There’s a process called pruning [the process of removing neurons that are damaged or degraded to improve the brain’s networking capacity]. This could be affected through all the time using tech. We don’t have data on that – but it certainly can raise a concern.
While more research is needed to fully understand the effects of technology on young minds, a study on frequency of memory complaints across different age groups found that around 15% of young adults report issues with memory, indicating that distraction may be a contributing factor. Despite the lack of systematic studies in this area, the potential risks of technology use for young people remain an important concern that requires further investigation.
Another concern is that over-digitization is leading to social isolation and the decline of face-to-face interaction. Children who spend a lot of time online may be missing out on important opportunities to develop social skills and emotional intelligence. This can make it more difficult for them to form and maintain meaningful relationships with others as they grow up.
It is important to remember that digital technology is not inherently bad for children. However, over-digitization can have negative effects if it is not properly managed. To minimize these effects, it is important for parents, educators, and policy makers to establish guidelines and boundaries around screen time, to promote healthy and balanced technology use.
(The author is HOD Department of Computer sciences, GDC, Udhampur)