So the Times did all these articles called “Your Brain on Computers,” about how texting is basically like heroin. You know, it makes your brain stop focusing, and makes it hard to concentrate, but it is also impossible to stop concentrating on it! It makes you into more of a truthful person on personality tests (how do you measure “empathy” anyway?)! Some people are feeling like maybe there are both pros AND CONS to rapid and dramatic changes in human existence! And of course, technology is ruining children, but duh.
I think I’ve made it clear what I think of these issues above there, so, naturally, I was really excited to see the Steven Pinker had an Op-Ed arguing, it seemed, the other way. Steven Pinker! So fluid! So smart! So usually correct about the human mind!
Alas, like the Maureen Dowd article directly above him that day, his piece was pretty much a disappointment. (I’m thinking of buying a parrot to fly around major media outlets squawking, “(TEENAGE) GIRLS HAVE SEXUAL AGENCY!!” or something). Pinker focuses on the wrong issues, and draws data-driven analogies when the stuff he’s refuting is far too vague to deserve it. Of course, if you think for a second, people did not get dumber in any measurable way when the TV came out, and they won’t now that we have the internet, too. Yes, its ridiculous to turn information about concentration and focus in computer flashing tests into pronouncements about the death of deep thinking. But people feel unsettled about new things, and there is no doubt that the internet is changing our lives. Unsettledness doesn’t turn into science and reasonable facts, it turns into worry.
- Its ok, Steven, you’re still awesome.
A better rebuttal comes from Jonah Lehrer, who writes The Frontal Cortex, a blog my boyfriend reads. The point is, yes, the internet is changing our lives and how we think. But there have always been distractions in our lives, and different ways of getting information. Parents have long been ignoring their children, and people have never been good at prioritizing their ‘work’ over what they’d rather be doing. Only now, what they’re doing instead of work can encompass all kinds of amazing, globe-trotting, life-changing networks and information. Or Javanoid. Either way, people are still people – impatient, bitchy, easily distracted, constantly amazed and unsettled by the new.