A generation without words

by Travis Braasch

It may be hard to believe that there was a time without cellphones; a time where children would walk to a friend’s house to see if they wanted to hang out, rather than send a text message. Times have changed with the evolution of technology, but the outcome isn’t what some may have expected.

According to the National Consumers League, 56 percent of children between the ages of 8 to 12 own cellphones and use them regularly. Not only do many young children have unlimited access to cellphones, but 21 percent of children age 8 or younger own smartphones.

With the waves of violence in schools the past decade, it isn’t unusual for parents to want to be in contact with their children in case some horrific event unfolds. Cellphones allow parents immediacy to contact their child without going through the complicated school channels.

However, despite the obvious logical benefits, cellphones have caused just as much harm to younger generations than most may realize. From cyber-bullying to sexual harassment, cellphones opened the doors to different worries for parents.

Teenagers seem to rely on their cellphones to do everything for them, from help with schoolwork to networking with friends. It is now easier than ever. The problem is that cellphones  have somehow enabled teenagers to become lost when trying to do anything for themselves. An example would be a simple problem of addition or subtraction that can’t be executed without the dependency of a smartphone.

This may stem from the fact that parents have given their children phones at younger ages than ever before, thus becoming reliant on phones earlier. This doesn’t give them the chance to grow up and learn how to process information for themselves. Like all technology, cellphones break and it’s amazing to see how lost some become when they cannot Google an answer for their homework assignment.

The most damage cellphones have created for the younger generation is their inability to verbally communicate in-person with their peers, affecting their confidence in social situations. Many teenagers strictly communicate through text messages, about 60 per day according to the PEW Research Center, and over a two year period the rate rises to over 100 per day.  Although the quick messages are handy, it seems that almost all conversation has been compacted to little words on a screen. The art of communication has digressed to a text.

There are no more conversations between human beings in that generation. This fact became obvious during a session of job interviews conducted with people that averaged the age of 18. They couldn’t seem to hold a schmoozy conversation. Many young teens out of high school avoided eye contact with their interviewer and played with their hands because they were not used to communicating with their voice. Some wouldn’t even look up when asked a simple question about their work skills, and mumbled responses at the table.

It became all too clear during a session of job interviews conducted by yours truly with people that averaged the age of 18.

As a manager of a local pizza place, it was clear in their awkwardness that they couldn’t even hold a simple conversation for a position in customer service. Most avoided eye contact, mumbled and played with their hands. No confidence. No communications. It is like talking to an empty shell of a human.

This shows how cellphone addiction has crippled our youths’ skill to communicate, which can harm their future.While cellphone use has allowed for communication, at some point even created a sense of safety, they’ve taken away from human interaction. It’s made our future leaders completely reliant on this piece of plastic and metal to function in almost any capacity.

Instead of buying an 8-year-old the latest smartphone for Christmas, perhaps the parents could enthusiastically settle for a bike, tell their kid to play outside and be creative. This technology has the power to rob them of their function to think and socially communicate.

Braasch is a reporter and is concerned about the progression of technology dependence.

Pg06-Opinion Travis

One thought on “A generation without words”

  1. Yes, this emasculation of humankind may well be on the books. Unfortunately, however, it is probably beyond our control.
    Most of us remain blithely unaware of the evolutionary processes of which we snout-less apes and machines are both part.
    Most folk still seem unable to break free from the traditional science fiction based notions involving individual robots/computers/systems. Either as potential threats, beneficial aids or serious basis for “artificial intelligence”.
    In actuality, the real next cognitive entity quietly self assembles in the background, mostly unrecognized for what it is. And, contrary to our usual conceits, is not stoppable or directly within our control.
    We are very prone to anthropocentric distortions of objective reality. This is perhaps not surprising, for to instead adopt the evidence based viewpoint now afforded by “big science” and “big history” takes us way outside our perceptive comfort zone.
    The fact is that the evolution of the Internet (and, of course, major components such as Google) is actually an autonomous process. The difficulty in convincing people of this “inconvenient truth” seems to stem partly from our natural anthropocentric mind-sets and also the traditional illusion that in some way we are in control of, and distinct from, nature. Contemplation of the observed realities tend to be relegated to the emotional “too hard” bin.
    This evolution is not driven by any individual software company or team of researchers, but rather by the sum of many human requirements, whims and desires to which the current technologies react. Among the more significant motivators are such things as commerce, gaming, social interactions, education and sexual titillation.
    Virtually all interests are catered for and, in toto provide the impetus for the continued evolution of the Internet. Netty is still in her larval stage, but we “workers” scurry round mindlessly engaged in her nurture.
    By relinquishing our usual parochial approach to this issue in favor of the overall evolutionary “big picture” provided by many fields of science, the emergence of a new predominant cognitive entity (from the Internet, rather than individual machines) is seen to be not only feasible but inevitable.
    The separate issue of whether it well be malignant, neutral or benign towards we snoutless apes is less certain, and this particular aspect I have explored elsewhere.
    Stephen Hawking, for instance, is reported to have remarked “Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all,”
    Such statements reflect the narrow-minded approach that is so common-place among those who make public comment on this issue. In reality, as much as it may offend our human conceits, the march of technology and its latest spearhead, the Internet is, and always has been, an autonomous process over which we have very little real control.
    Seemingly unrelated disciplines such as geology, biology and “big history” actually have much to tell us about the machinery of nature (of which technology is necessarily a part) and the kind of outcome that is to be expected from the evolution of the Internet.
    This much broader “systems analysis” approach, freed from the anthropocentric notions usually promoted by the cult of the “Singularity”, provides a more objective vision that is consistent with the pattern of autonomous evolution of technology that is so evident today.
    Very real evidence indicates the rather imminent implementation of the next, (non-biological) phase of the on-going evolutionary “life” process from what we at present call the Internet. It is effectively evolving by a process of self-assembly.
    The “Internet of Things” is proceeding apace and pervading all aspects of our lives. We are increasingly, in a sense, “enslaved” by our PCs, mobile phones, their apps and many other trappings of the increasingly cloudy net. We are already largely dependent upon it for our commerce and industry and there is no turning back. What we perceive as a tool is well on its way to becoming an agent.
    There are at present more than 3 billion Internet users. There are an estimated 10 to 80 billion neurons in the human brain. On this basis for approximation the Internet is even now only one order of magnitude below the human brain and its growth is exponential.
    That is a simplification, of course. For example: Not all users have their own computer. So perhaps we could reduce that, say, tenfold. The number of switching units, transistors, if you wish, contained by all the computers connecting to the Internet and which are more analogous to individual neurons is many orders of magnitude greater than 3 Billion. Then again, this is compensated for to some extent by the fact that neurons do not appear to be binary switching devices but instead can adopt multiple states.
    We see that we must take seriously the possibility that even the present Internet may well be comparable to a human brain in at least raw processing power. And, of course, the all-important degree of interconnection and cross-linking of networks and supply of sensory inputs is also growing exponentially.
    We are witnessing the emergence of a new and predominant cognitive entity that is a logical consequence of the evolutionary continuum that can be traced back at least as far as the formation of the chemical elements in stars.
    This is the main theme of my latest book “The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill” which is now available as a 336 page illustrated paperback from Amazon, etc.
    Netty, as you may have guessed by now, is the name I choose to identify this emergent non-biological cognitive entity. In the event that we can subdue our natural tendencies to belligerence and form a symbiotic relationship with this new phase of the “life” process then we have the possibility of a bright future.
    If we don’t become aware of these realities and mend our ways, however, then we snout-less apes could indeed be relegated to the historical rubbish bin within a few decades. After all , our infrastructures are becoming increasingly Internet dependent and Netty will only need to “pull the plug” to effect pest eradication.
    So it is to our advantage to try to effect the inclusion of desirable human behaviors in Netty’s psyche. In practice that equates to our species firstly becoming aware of our true place in nature’s machinery and, secondly, making a determined effort to “straighten up and fly right”

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