How Technology Changes Us: Our Reliance on Smartphones is Creating “Digital Amnesia”

by Matt Klassen on July 6, 2015

The more we depend on smartphones for communication and life management, the more such devices will alter us as human beings, and researchers are concerned that these changes–wrought largely from a growing dependency on technology–will have a deleterious impact on us as a species.

In fact, according to a recent study by software and cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab, the convenience afforded to us by our digital devices and their ability to provide instantaneous information is beginning to take a serious toll on our own natural abilities to learn, memorize, and recall information.

Simply put, not only is our dependency on smartphones changing the ways we interact, communicate, and operate in this world, it’s changing us as a species as well, robbing us of natural skills and abilities that the human race has honed over incalculable generations.

The more people depend on smartphones as an extension of themselves, particularly as an extension to their thought processes, the more damaging effects it can have on our cognitive processes, most notably on our memory. In fact, researches have dubbed the impact on our memory as “digital amnesia,” that is, “forgetting information that we trust to digital devices to store and remember on our behalf.”

It’s a problem that doesn’t discriminate based on age or gender, with 91.2 percent of respondents to aUSsurvey admitting they “use the Internet as an online extension of their brain”.

Such dependency has resulted in a shocking inability to retain information, even important information about loved ones such as birthdays, phone numbers, and anniversaries. As the Economic Times reports, “In the survey, seven in ten could not remember their children’s phone numbers and nearly nine in ten could not recall the numbers for their children’s schools.”

Not only that, but such instant access to information has had yet another negative impact on our thinking patterns, it’s made us lazy. As Peter Dockrill of Science Alert writes, “Approximately 50 percent of consumers surveyed said they would turn to the Internet before even trying to remember a particular fact, and more than one in four people are happy to instantly forget something gleaned from an online result as soon as they’ve made use of it.”

The unfortunate reality for us is that like any other part of our body, in order to retain something like memory, we have to exercise our ability to memorize, and the fact that smartphones are robbing us of the opportunity to use our memory means our dependency on technology to remember will only deepen.

So what does this all mean? For starters, it means that digital technology is creating a culture wherein accessing information is more important than learning said information, and that this ethos  “of instant search engine gratification is effectively training our brains to treat all sorts of information like some kind of disposable snack,” accessed instantly when needed and forgotten just as quickly.

As David Emm, the principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, noted: “Connected devices enrich our lives but they have also given rise to digital amnesia. We need to understand the long-term implications of this for how we remember and how we protect [our] memories.”

In sum, information is no longer something we learn, digest, and recall—a process researchers say is vital for creating long-term memories—it’s something we instantly access, consume, and dispose of as quickly as possible—a process that will only create a transitory, short-term memories, destined to be forgotten.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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