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Do Gadgets Degrade Our Common Sense? 311

ShelleyPortet writes "In a world where gadgets are growing more sophisticated, human behavior is changing — and not in a good way. That is what Robert Vamosi, author of When Gadgets Betray Us argues in his book, which examines the dangers of our growing dependence on technology. As gadgets develop the ability to multitask seemingly endless functions, Vamosi argues that people are increasingly unable to think for themselves. 'Instead of lifting our heads, looking around and thinking for ourselves,' Vamosi writes, some of us no longer see the world as human beings have for thousands of years and simply accept whatever our gadgets show us."
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Do Gadgets Degrade Our Common Sense?

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  • by x*yy*x ( 2058140 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:24PM (#36036414)

    some of us no longer see the world as human beings have for thousands of years and simply accept whatever our gadgets show us

    And how did the human beings see the world before? Yes, only the area they lived on. The culture, and the religion. They heard and saw what dictators, politicians and religious persons told them. It was a very far off from the reality and it still shows today with religion. I rather hear things from everyday people. Theres a lot of information and knowledge that would never come out of "official" channels. Or with todays technology I can travel the world myself and see those things. Yes, some people will never use that opportunity. But at least now it's possible for everyone and everyone can make their own decisions instead of some religion telling you what to do.

    Yes, I've traveled to Asia and even had sex with shemales there. I'm thinking of marrying an asian woman, which seems to be a problem for the religious types in my family tree but not for anyone else. And that would had been completely out of possibility in communitys where religion tells you it's "immoral" to have sex before marriage, or hell, make all of their women wear clothes that can't even show their faces. Gadgets, internet and the technology in general has allowed me too see different parts of the world myself, and hear things from a lot of different kinds of people. It has also opened my mind and made me question the stupidity that religion is and like this article tries to imply, controlling information so that only a few persons can express their opinion.

    The point is, most people didn't think on their before either. They followed what someone else in power told them - be that their parents, religion or their country. Now there's at least the possibility to choose.

    • by MaltoMario ( 1005995 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:51PM (#36036798)
      you lost me at "shemales"
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        C'mon this is slashdot... you should have said he lost you at "had sex".

    • The more things change, the more they stay the same.

      • I'd like to combine your post with an interesting quote from the parent, thusly:

        Yes, I've traveled to Asia and even had sex with shemales there..

        The more things change, the more they stay the same.

      • I like money. I like havin' sex with chicks, too.

        We like the same things. We should SuperSize together sometime. Hey, y'know where the Tiem Masheen is?

    • gps and car wrecks Lets hope we weed out some of humanity when they blindly follow their tech. Seriously though lets view it like viruses. There is no single virus that will wipe out humanity. We've grown too large. No matter the change, some where people will be isolated from it. Our tech reliance isn't going to affect us on a species level. This is a cultural issue.
    • And how did the human beings see the world before?

      Through these extra-stylish rose-tinted glasses. Get a pair free with every purchase of Vamosi's book!

    • As the cliche goes knowledge is power. By the same token he who has the knowledge has the power. Like your post states with the spread of gadgets and the ability to chat with someone of another culture real time on the other side of the globe as a race it brings us closer together, it breaks down the societal borders that have been in place those thousands of years. It allows an outsider to see from the inside and no longer be rejected for being an outsider, because where you are visiting or those you are t
  • Death by GPS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:26PM (#36036430)

    Death by GPS [vote29.com] was the first example that came to mind.

    • Re:Death by GPS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:33PM (#36036524) Journal
      That's what I was thinking too, that a lot of people don't know how to use maps anymore because they have GPS giving them turn-by-turn instructions. And yet, really, I think even before GPS, most people weren't really good at using maps. So maybe not much has changed; except now people who were chronically lost have a chance of finding their way.
      • Yup. And those of us who do know how to read maps can find our locations much faster and choose alternate routes, or find interesting sites much easier.

        • My GPS has a "Sites of Interest" button.

          Ok, I don't have a GPS. And while I'm not great at orienteering, I can read a road map and tell my basic direction with a little help from the Sun. The moss on the north side hasn't really worked out for me so well.

          • It is tough to feel the moss while traveling at 70MPH.

            The Sun however moves pretty predictably.

            • It is tough to feel the moss while traveling at 70MPH.

              The Sun however moves pretty predictably.

              great news when it's night time or cloudy...

        • People should also realize that no matter where they are, all main roads intersect with another main road.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Maps are good.

          You can look at a map of any city in the USA and know to avoid the area that has MLK drive, Blvd, Road, Loop, Street, or Avenue.

          GPS will send you right the middle of the hood if that is the "shortest" route.

      • What changed is that if you can't read a map you tend to know that you're going to get lost if you stray too far. Sure some people would anyways either intentionally or accidentally, but with the GPS it's a lot easier to get way off track if you don't know that it's broken or not working properly.

        Consequently in the past it was much more likely that somebody would be lost as in took a wrong turn, but still relatively close to the intended route, whereas with GPS it's a lot easier for them to get much furthe

      • by alen ( 225700 )

        and in the 1990's GPS training was mandatory in the US army. even with the primitive GPS we had.

        maps are always out of date, it's hard to orient yourself in a new area, drive through a new area, etc. on i-95 i took a detour a few times on i-195 or i-295, forget which. because the signs said to get to i-95 take this exit. when i could have gone straight to i-95 if i drove a few more exits down the highway.

      • Maps Suk.

        I was terrified of driving until I got a GPS.

        "I wanna know right now in the middle of this crap what that weird is". (North east cowpath road design).

        I haven't once been told anything dangerous. At the very worst in NYC it doesn't find the road fast enough, but then in NYC the next road over usually works too and it fixes it later.

        • Maps Suk.

          That is totally a matter of opinion. I love maps.

          I was terrified of driving until I got a GPS.

          That explains a lot about why you don't like maps. You are one of those afore-mentioned people who doesn't know how to use them.

      • Re:Death by GPS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:46PM (#36037582)
        Maps are technology too. They aren't produced by nature and you aren't born knowing how to read them. Isn't it awfully risky to go out when you don't really know where you're going and need a piece of paper to tell you? What if it blows away or gets stolen? And think of the mental decay from not having to memorize where things are any more.

        The fact is, technology and specialization have placed us far beyond self-sufficiency at this point. You don't really know how your food is grown, how your home is constructed, how your car works, or what happens when you flip a light switch. You think you do, but you couldn't reconstruct all that from scratch if you found yourself alone on an island, not in a 1000 lifetimes. So I don't see why we would suddenly draw an arbitrary line to exclude GPS or other "gadgets."

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by crashumbc ( 1221174 )

      Stupid people do stupid things. How many people do you think died back when they crossed those areas in a wagon? or in cars back in the 40-50's? People are no more stupid today then they were "back then" because of gadgets. It just makes "good" (i.e. sells papers) to print sensationalistic crap like that.

      How many people died when the US was being settled? If you read books and accounts from that era, it was common for more knowledgeable people in the trading outposts and such to make fun of people heading u

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Do they call th deaths of people who don't read maps correctly 'Death by Map"?

    • The neighbor kid still uses her GPS to get home from college. She's made the trip at least a dozen times.

      It's about 120 miles. Maybe 3 turns. It's on the same major highway as the high school that she went to, just 110 miles further down the road.

      I often wonder if she could do it without the GPS.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Just because someone goes to college does not mean they are smart. My daughter has friends in college that are brain-dead stupid. She calls them Liberal Arts students... These are the same people that forget their combination to a lock and the password they use daily for 5 weeks straight.

        Hell I have a Sister in Law that has 3 Masters Degrees and she can not keep a car from rolling over. 5 rollovers in 3 years. 3 of them in the summer/spring months on dry pavement.

      • Don't necessarily make the assumption that just because she uses her GPS on familiar routes that she wouldn't be able to find her way without. I use mine all the time to direct me on familiar routes, or back to my office after I'm out at a remote site. It allows you to pay a little less attention on remembering the exact turns to make, and more time on your actual driving, and it reminds you the exact exit to take (very useful when the exits in your city are confusing - I think the freeways in Portland Or
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

      Just put the green one in your mouth, the blue one in your ear, and the red one in your butt...Or is it green one in your mouth? Anyway, the GPS lady will tell you.

  • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:27PM (#36036452)
    They just broadcast it to the world now and make it very obvious.
  • Maybe ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:29PM (#36036480)
    Maybe some people are getting mentally 'lazy'. I guess they could have said the same thing about all of the technology developed during the industrial revolution. I know that I'm certainly less apt to cut my grass "by hand" now that I have a nice power mower ... and that car sure comes in hand when I don't feel like carrying stuff home from the store.
  • not a bad thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Laxori666 ( 748529 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:30PM (#36036490) Homepage
    oooor.... we can maintain our intelligence, be educated (as in learn how to think rationally, not be indoctrinated), be reasonable, and use these tools to augment our natural intelligence do things that weren't possible 50 or 100 years ago.

    it's up to each person to do this for themselves. complaining that "people can't think for themselves" doesn't really get you anywhere.
    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      I think common sense changes to fit our circumstances. For the most we all think that it is common sense that those around us are equal or that we have the right to believe as wish. Most kids probably do not have the common sense to know which foods they can and cannot eat in the forest, but do have the common sense to send an email. I think that common sense tells us that things cannot move arbitrarily fast, or change the velocity instantaneously. It is common sense that things get bigger, the supports
    • You're right, but the problem is that there are more stupid people who will forgo doing what you suggest and will remain blissfully ignorant. An even bigger problem is that those people can also vote. Their choices for "leadership" can and will greatly hamper your personal quest to improve yourself by making sure that such dangerous things as chemistry sets and GPS units without the Idiot Chip installed are not available to the public.

  • I'm more afraid of the filter bubbles. Information on the web is increasingly filtered for you, without you knowing it, or being able to control it.
    See this TED talk:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html [ted.com]

  • And the ancient Egyptians no doubt said the same when someone invented papyrus -- "kids these days don't know how to memorize things".

    Bah. Not memorizing long winded tales leaves brain storage to remember other things, and papyrus memories don't suffer from the same bitrot as human memories. But those ancient old fogies didn't consider that any more than modern old fogies don't consider the advantages of new tech.

    • I would be interested in Robert Vamosi thoughts on this subject, but I don't believe in this "writing" gadget that's caught on recently. It claims to be an accurate reflection of his ideas, but I'm not going to simply accept what it tells me.

      Frankly, if I can't talk to him personally and discuss it, as humans have done for thousands of years before us, I'm allowing "reading" to do my thinking for me.

    • Re:Ya, right (Score:4, Insightful)

      by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:00PM (#36036930)

      I'd say the issue is the thinking that if it's written down, I don't need to learn it. I can always refer to it later. Even more so with Smartphones and the Internet.

      Knowing things helps you solve problems, create new things, etc. If people say, "If I need to know it, I'll just look it up" it may not be too far away that we don't know what to look up because we can't even make the basic connections between subjects.

    • by Homburg ( 213427 )

      I don't know if the ancient Egyptians said this, but Plato definitely did [ttu.edu].

  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:30PM (#36036496) Homepage Journal

    Fundamental laws of physics:

    1. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
    2. Energy and momentum are conserved.
    3. Every new technology must have an article by somebody talking about how it's going to ruin everything.

    Evidence for #3 has been tested as far back as Socrates and Plato [wikipedia.org]. I have no doubt that at least some cave paintings are really an editorial about how fire is going to end the species: with fire to keep us warm, who is ever going to have sex again?

    If the point of the article is to say, "Don't be an idiot"... did you really need to spread that advice over five page views?

    • with fire to keep us warm, who is ever going to have sex again?

      They were very close on that one!

    • Relevant Dresden Codak: http://dresdencodak.com/2009/09/22/caveman-science-fiction/ [dresdencodak.com]

    • Absolutely. TFA is just a thinly veiled platform for older generations to complain about younger generations. I don't have the "common sense" of 150 years ago in order to buy a proper ox and wagon, find food and water for myself and the animals, or hunt and dress game. Similarly a person from 150 years ago wouldn't have the "common sense" to google for the answers to their questions about Abraham Lincoln.

      "Common sense" varies from time and society, and both can change rather quickly.
  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:30PM (#36036500)

    Does anyone have a podcast or ebook version of this article, I'm very interested in this topic.

  • You practice a skill. Then a tool comes along and you no longer have to practice. When the tool breaks you are no longer able to do the said skill by hand as well as you could before the tool came along.
    I think the TFA is a tool.
  • by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:33PM (#36036522)

    One thing that I wonder about is how medical technology will affect the human genome. For example, in earlier centuries, women with narrow birth canals, and their babies, frequently died in childbirth. Now, the lives of such women (and their babies) are saved via Cesarian section, and the selection pressure against genetic variations (mutations) that produce narrow birth canals has been reduced. In future generations, how much effect will this have on the anatomy of the average woman? After ten, or fifty, or five hundred generations, might we be in a situation in which childbirth without Cesarian section is no longer possible?

    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:59PM (#36036912) Homepage

      One thing that I wonder about is how medical technology will affect the human genome. For example, in earlier centuries, women with narrow birth canals, and their babies, frequently died in childbirth. Now, the lives of such women (and their babies) are saved via Cesarian section, and the selection pressure against genetic variations (mutations) that produce narrow birth canals has been reduced. In future generations, how much effect will this have on the anatomy of the average woman? After ten, or fifty, or five hundred generations, might we be in a situation in which childbirth without Cesarian section is no longer possible?

      No, that will be decided by the lawyers.....

      Back on topic - you making a few assumptions that don't necessarily hold. Narrow birth canal outlets can happen, but aren't especially common and more importantly are not the major reason for C-sections. Maternal deaths were typically due to 1) hemorrhage and 2) infection - neither one due much to genetics.

      The broader question of what modern medicine is doing to change human genetics is harder to answer. Yes, we are keeping people alive that would not have reached sexual maturity in the 'olden days', but we're also preventing many deaths of otherwise healthy individuals that do become sexually (and in the case of humans, perhaps more importantly), socially active. Finally one has to be very careful ascribing evolutionary fitness to any given trait. It's common in the lay literature to suggest that some random trait (brain size, penis size, nostril size) improves evolutionary fitness and therefore was selected. Humans are fairly slow growing and haven't been around for all that long (in the geological time frame sense) - a lot of traits are carried along and not necessarily 'selected'. Anyway.

      It's complicated.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Learning to read and write completely destroyed our ability to remember things. I'd still call the invention of literacy a net positive.

  • that never existed in the first place

    "some of us no longer see the world as human beings have for thousands of years and simply accept whatever our gadgets show us"


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_blind_leading_the_blind [wikipedia.org]

    certain people have always blindly accepted what was in front of them, and certain other people looked around and challenged their own assumptions. the proportion between these classes of people is innate, a random spread, a constant of the human condition. so it always was, so it is, so it always will be

    technology is not changing essential human nature

  • Prior to the advent of the communication age, the only way to disseminate information was for other people to tell you that information. Now it's people telling you that information through gadgets. I don't think Facebook is significantly different from gossiping at the village well or the office water cooler.
  • Again?

    No it isn't, and that comes from the logical fallacy that you aren't enjoying life if you aren't out in the real world.

    "Convenience can cause vulnerabilities"
    No shit. Security is, and always has been, about a balance between Convenience and safety. The balance move, can be changed with money, but it's there.

    I can make you car 99.99999 % thief proof... but it would be damn inconvenient to get to.

    The whole article is a FUD generator to sell a book.

  • Wasn't it Aristotle or one of the other great Greek thinkers who complained that writing things down was eroding society and people's capacity to be fully fledged thinking beings?

    Haven't humans always blamed new technologies and new ways from eroding our abilities, don't people always look back to a mythical Golden Age? (which invariably seems to be set at two generations ago...)

    • Wasn't it Aristotle or one of the other great Greek thinkers who complained that writing things down was eroding society and people's capacity to be fully fledged thinking beings?

      Umm... I dont' remember.

  • I don't think people are losing common sense. I think that new technology enables people who never had common sense to try to accomplish things that they wouldn't have even tried before.

  • by coldsalmon ( 946941 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:38PM (#36036630)

    It is with great pleasure that I read the learned words of this amiable scholar, Mr. Vamosi. It is thus prooved that the Gadgette may be more of a threate to the mind of our Republice than the gallopping steamship or railroad loco-motive. Tell me, in what respect may the Gadgette hope to improve upon the brain given us by our creator? Did He make our human brains to be cleverer than himself, and master over Him? If ye say "No," then how can ye say that we are then so wise and skillful as to make a Gadgette to be clever than ourselves and master over us? This is as ridiculous as the old familiar question: "Can our Lord and Creator microwave a Burrito so scaldingly hot that even He Himself cannot taste of it?" Nay, presume not that the creator (whether our Heavenly master or our own intellect) can ever be led by his creation into any realm except that of the Doomed Abyss. Thus, Gentlemen of the Republice, cast ye Gadgettes into the sea -- lest they hang about they neck as a great millstone -- and drag ye down to the depths!!

    • by sco08y ( 615665 )

      Esteemed Colleague,

      I find your Writings to be of an Astonishing Clarity, and would lyke to subscribe to your Weekly Pamflet.

      Your Humble Servant.

  • by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:40PM (#36036650)

    I don't think it's gadgets degrading common sense, it's our physiology working against us; the human body really doesn't do more than it has to. If you don't use muscle it goes away, if you drink too much coffee you're basically dysfunctional before your first cup of the day, I don't remember half as many phone numbers as I used to since I stated carrying an address book, etc. Those gadgets just provide a gateway for our minds and bodies to seek the path of least resistance.

  • by the_raptor ( 652941 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:41PM (#36036674)

    Stupid people used to die young before they had raised off-spring. Break a leg due to stupidity before germ theory and penicillin and that could be it for you. This meant that not only did nature "select" for "common sense", it gave incentives to those with poor common sense to learn those important life lessons. These days you can be an absolute moron with no ability to understand personal responsibility and have access to amazing health care for free and get government handouts to house and feed you (at least in most of the West apart from America).

    It isn't that humans have evolved significantly in the last century or two it is that those who would have been dead are now sticking around to lower the average. They are also generally failing to give their children values that allow them to do anything but barely survive inside societies safety nets (hence generational unemployment, and voters that vote for bread and circuses).

    • by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:34PM (#36037396)
      I don't buy it. First of all, "common sense" is this mythical entity. Science has repeatedly shown that folkloric rules-of-thumb are wrong, especially when it comes to medicine. So what's so "sensical" about it, when it's often wrong? Because if your idea is right, i.e., supported by the evidence, you're talking about scientific fact. Anyone who argues from the evidence is, by definition, smart, or at least, smart enough not to be called "stupid". Now, science is sometimes "wrong", but science has a built-in mechanism to correct that; thus scientific fact is under constant revision.

      Everyone "used to die young". Look, humans reach reproductive capability in their teens. There's plenty of time to be stupid before you die if you can reproduce after only 13 or 14 years of existence, and in pre-industrial revolution human history, people often did. Your complaints about "lowering the average" and "failing to give their children values" are old claims-- probably as old as the ideas of "average" and "values".

      Education is strongly correlated with a better quality of life (and if you don't strongly suspect that there is some causal relationship there-- well, you're being obtuse). Everybody born in the United States is now entitled to (and, in fact, required to have) that education, by law. Almost everyone in this country can read and do basic arithmetic. Life is way better now than quite frankly any time in human history. I fail to see how humans are now more stupid or in any way worse off.

      Now, if you argue that our best aren't as good as they used to be-- you may have a point. But I'd still take many smart people over a few geniuses any day.
  • Story in The Telegraph, "Ramblers who use their iPhones to navigate and have no idea how to read a map are causing the number of emergency call-outs to increase by 50 per cent, mountain rescuers have complained. " http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8435019/Ramblers-who-rely-on-iPhones-to-navigate-increase-rescue-call-outs-by-50-per-cent.html [telegraph.co.uk]
  • A big misnomer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macdaddy357 ( 582412 ) <macdaddy357@hotmail.com> on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:43PM (#36036696)
    "Common sense" is a big misnomer. Sense has never been common. Most people have none, and did even before gadgets.
  • Gadgets might be causing us to take in a lot more information and spend less time digesting and processing that information. The catch is that we can't really define a cause so easily. For example in America our ability to use the English language is in a huge decline. Popular entertainment has caused a severe degradation in our ability to understand sentences an paragraphs, a lowering in vocabulary, and a detachment from the importance of detailed thinking. The use of gadgets may simply be a continu

  • "Vamosi writes, some of us no longer see the world as human beings have for thousands of years and simply accept whatever our gadgets show us."

    Welcome to transhumanism, film at eleven.

    Hint: This is a good thing. Writing did the same thing; gave us an external storage mechanism. For the most part, we do not lament the loss of oral tradition.

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:48PM (#36036754)

    Technological advances of this nature leverage human abilities allowing human productivity to increase.

    It is in large measure how civilization advances. When the moldboard plow was invented humans were able to plant more land. This made more food available and hunger decreased. Yeah people probably became weaker as a result of having to do less grunt labor. But was the overall effect bad?

            "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations we can perform without thinking."

            --Alfred North Whitehead

  • Amiga 500 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by retech ( 1228598 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:51PM (#36036794)
    My first computer was an Amiga 500. And, honestly, I was awestruck for the first week of ownership. I felt like I was living the sci-fi fantasy I'd had just 10 yrs prior. An affordable tech that was simply amazing to me at that point.

    I remember drawing on it and thinking: "The generation that comes after me will be like gods of technology. They'll have been born with this in their hands and it will bring them to new levels of intelligence, tech and opportunity."

    This is just not the case now 25+yrs later. I work a great deal with teens teaching them tech from an art and theater end. What I find is that they know how to use the front end with incredible alacrity and skill. However once that tech has a glitch or fails them they're dumb founded. Yes, I am generalizing, but I've found an overwhelming majority lack even the basic sense to trouble shoot. At best they just let it sit until someone fixes it. At worst I've seen them toss cell phones and laptops in the dumpster because it was broke. (And I was able to retrieve it and fix it later.) It's that lack of trouble shooting ability that is the key to me. They've never been taught to do that. It's not just the tech that is different for them vs. me it's the societal thinking. You do not fix stuff now and keep using it. You toss it out and buy new. And that has deprived them of the desire, curiosity and ability to think creatively and trouble shoot.

    While the complexity of the tech has grown since my first introduction, with an almost perfect inverse the ignorance of that same tech's fundamental workings has grown. Your results may vary, but this seems to be the same experience with a broad scope of my friends and colleagues as well. I personally do not see it getting any better. It's created wonderful consumers and that's just what the market wants.
    • Re:Amiga 500 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:48PM (#36037604)
      Naw, it's not that bad. You're comparing the top 10 percentile of yesteryear with the median of today.
      How old were you when you got you Amiga?
      How nerdy were you? Good grades, honor program, pocket protector and horn-rims?
      How many other people got an Amiga?
      Now consider how smart, geeky, nerdy, inquisitive your fellow peers were at that time. I'm not talking about your friends, I'm talking about the typical joe blow.

      You are dealing with the median. Everyone handles technology now-a-days. If you interacted with the nerds at computer camp, you'd have a different view. The top 10% remains just as rare today as it was then.

      So the generation that came after you is god-like in their tech and opportunity, but the intelligence remains as a bell-curve.
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:53PM (#36036836)

    some of us no longer see the world as human beings have for thousands of years

    Make that about a quarter of a million years (as modern humans), and many millions of years before that (as our pre-human ancestors).

    When you're driving down the street and you see a pedestrian, you usually snap to it immediately because our ancestors have needed to detect the human gait for millions of years. But when someone is on a skateboard or scooter you don't snap so fast, because it doesn't make the right neurons fire.

    Similarly, GR and QM seem bizarre to us because they operate on scales of time, space, energy, and gravity that our ancestors never had to deal with, but on scales that they did, we do OK - we can catch that baseball[*] even though it hasn't been around for a couple of hundred years, because it's still within the scope of what we've evolved to deal with.

    If gagetry is a problem for any reason other than mere distraction, it needs to be viewed in terms of our evolved cognitive abilities, not on "thousands of years" of habit or tradition.

    [*] Well, *I* can't, but presumably some of you can.

  • My goodness, yes. My father in law has no concept of common sense, thinking critically or of using his own memory to answer questions anymore. He just Googles everything and then reads off the first search result that catches his eye. Don't even get me started on Snopes.
  • Car Keys (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tomahawk ( 1343 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @12:55PM (#36036868) Homepage

    A friend of mine once couldn't lock his car - the button on the key wouldn't lock the car. He tried various things like waiting for 30 minutes to see if the car would lock itself, etc.

    Eventually he was talking to a friend on the phone telling her about his situation ('cos he couldn't leave the car unlocked), and she asked him if he tried turning the key in lock...!

    So yes, gadgets do affect our common sense. We get used to using a gadget to do something that we forget how to do that action without the gadget. Are we fast becoming a race of needing a specific tool to do a specific job...?

    • by xelan ( 1191065 )
      You think that's bad? I know an older teacher who covers a study hall in a High School near him quite often. He said that the students often ask him what the time is despite there being a perfectly legible analog clock just a bit behind him and up simply because the students can only read digital clocks.
  • We are evolving.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperCharlie ( 1068072 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:06PM (#36037006)
    This may become long and drawn out..but I am speaking from a different perspective than most I would think.

    I have been a PC tech/web developer for around 15 years. I kept up with the latest gizmos and gadgets, technology and toys for a long, long time. My last stint was support at a University. My wife and I got the "get back to basics" fever, quit our jobs, bought some raw land and are homesteading 4 acres on the outskirts of nowhere.

    In that change also came a paradigm shift about technology. While we have to use our laptops for our web business, more and more we are wandering away from the screens and towards the dirt. What I find is that the less time you spend with "a screen" the more you come to understand and envelope yourself with the real world..the world of dirt, the world of nature, the real world you cant touch on flickr and cant smell on facebook.

    We as a society are evolving into a clinically sterile, see here is nature on the screen, whats a shovel people.

    I am not arguing that technology is bad, merely making the observation that reality is changing for most people. That we as a group are living our lives more and more through screens and by dilution less and less in the sun. While the irony of me posting this here does not elude me, I will be shoveling up some garden and doing some garden work shortly. I hope you would have some real world to balance off "the screens" as well because to me, the human condition is not a clinically sterile parade of screens and gizmos.. it is about the sights, smells, grit, efforts and rewards you can only get once you run out of batteries.
    • by Twinbee ( 767046 )

      In the whole of your post, you speak about using the computer for work, rather than actually really wanting to use it.

      500+ years from now, I'm sure we'll all be up and about doing fun things, but we won't necessarily be using computers to do dull stuff, but only the stuff we really want - creating, art, music, writing, communicating etc.

    • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:15PM (#36038012)

      the more you come to understand and envelope yourself with the real world..the world of dirt,

      I'm sorry, is the digital not "real" to you? Am I not real to you? Are the thoughts and ideas from someone in India less real because it comes over a wire?
      How exactly is dirt any more real then a hard-drive platter?
      You went out and became farmers. That's great for you. Whatever floats your boat. But people have been removed from that environment a hell of a lot longer then you think. City-slickers have had to have the concept of a shovel explained to them since there were cities. When was the last time you got some culture? Saw a play? Went to a concert? Saw through an ad as false promises? Chatted with the immigrant cook in a dive bar? Spotted a con man in the streets? Rural hicks just don't get that "real-world" experience that you get in a city. Your argument works both ways. So don't go confusing a different environment as the one true "real" one.

      Now don't get me wrong, it's good to get away from the screen now and then. The same way that it's good to get out of, or into, the city now and then. Diversity, I guess, is the message I'm going for here. I imagine that for most of your "neighbors" (if you had any), browsing wikipedia for a little while or chatting with someone from Iraq would do them a world of good. The sort of real-world eye opening experience you can only get with the batteries full and the screen on.

  • I dunno.

    Lemme check wikipedia...

  • Force Multiplier (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:25PM (#36037262)
    Technology is a Force Multiplier.
    If you're a brilliant scientist, you can use it to do even greater, more important work.
    If your a tyrannical dictator, you can use to to further oppress and control your citizens.
    If you're a blithering idiot you can stare at it as you plow your car into a group of children waiting for a buss.
  • by slapout ( 93640 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:26PM (#36037280)

    Wasn't this covered by a couple of episodes of "Star Trek"? They would find some civilization where the people had become dumb and relied on machines that had been invented years before?

  • ...that it would be clear and sunny today. I opened the garage door to pull out the motorcycle and it was POURING rain. It never occurred to me to look out the window. So yeah, maybe they have a point.

    Let me put on my tinfoil hat. Wait... there it is... Ok. I have to wonder how useful it would be to manipulate the data presented by gadgets. In fact, there could be an intriguing experiment there... Say, trick the iphone into reporting it's raining today, and all other smartphones report it's sunny,

  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:46PM (#36037566)

    This sounds like a serious problem! Quick, someone (yawn) go and (eyes droop) and do (yaaaaawn) some sort of thing or somethinzzzzzzzzzzzz (snore)

  • This again? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:48PM (#36037606)

    Another disillusioned techie writes another anti-tech book about the way technology has made the general public dumber than it already is. Film at eleven.

    People were, by and large, already dumber than rocks. This is, after all, the same species that wandered around in its current form for about 200,000 years before anyone noticed that seeds make plants, and only figured out in the last century or so that disease is caused by microorganisms and not evil spirits -- and still, a lot of people aren't convinced. The only thing that has changed is that people who previously did or said stupid things in private can now share them with the world on Facebook and YouTube.

    That said, it's nice to see that the author is is a technology professional. Most of these books are written by liberal arts majors who are embittered by the presence of iPhones at their poetry slams.

  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:48PM (#36037614)

    I disagree with the premise. I think people have always had this problem. The thing about these "gadgets", as he calls them, is that they spread information faster and farther than was ever possible before. I just encountered this today with a forwarded email I received, from a very conservative friend, which stated that Sears is now selling X-rated DVDs. Without even looking into the situation, he just forwarded it on to all his friends adding the note, "Kinda sad because they sell great tools." It only took a few minutes for me to go to the Sears site and see that the email is a fabrication. It took only a few minutes more to discover that this is from an American Family Association (who?) alert sent out last year about "pornographic" art being sold at Sears -- which turned out to actually be pretty tasteful wall decor featuring nude bodies (not exactly my cup of tea, but to each his own). Even though it only took a few minutes to discover the hoax, it was easier for my friend to simply accept the news as the truth, and then angrily forward the information along to everyone he knows. However, if this were 1911 instead of 2011 and my friend had heard this rumor via word-of-mouth, he would have done the same thing -- that is, pass the rumor along without checking facts. People have always been stupid. Now they are stupid at the speed of light.

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -- Christopher Morley