The Danger of Thinking the Way Technology Wants Us to Think

What scares me most is how we start to think the way the technology wants us to think.

I think what we see over and over again with technology is that as it – as a new popular technology begins to be woven into society, woven into our personal lives ever more deeply, we not only change the way we behave or the way we think, but we change what we value about human beings, about ourselves.  And what scares me is not just the changes in thinking that the internet I think is promoting, but the way we see signs that we are beginning to devalue the whole idea of solitary thought, or contemplative thought or very attentive thought.  And you see this in just changing kind of mores or social norms.  

You know a couple of years ago, if we were having a conversation and I pulled out my iPhone and you know, checked an incoming email or a text or something, we’d consider that rude.  Or you do it in a meeting or whatever.  Now it’s just becoming normal.  That’s its becoming expected that you know, even when we’re talking with our spouse or our kids, we’re not going to get their full attention, we’re each going to be processing different streams of information simultaneously.  And I think that shows how these – how quickly we can change not only our behavior, but our idea of how we should behave in response to technologies.  

And as we do that I think, and I think this is actually part of a longer term shift in the way we think about thinking.  I think we begin to believe that thinking is always just a matter of kind of rapid problem-solving and exchanging information in a very utilitarian conception of how we should use our mind.  And what gets devalued is those kind of more contemplative, more solitary modes of thought that in the past anyway, were considered central to the experience of life, to the life of the mind certainly, and even to our social lives.  

And so I think that’s what scares me most is that we become – we start to think the way the technology wants us to think.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio. 

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Think you’re bad at math? You may suffer from ‘math trauma’

Even some teachers suffer from anxiety about math.

Image credit: Getty Images
Mind & Brain

I teach people how to teach math, and I've been working in this field for 30 years. Across those decades, I've met many people who suffer from varying degrees of math trauma – a form of debilitating mental shutdown when it comes to doing mathematics.

Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

How KGB founder Iron Felix justified terror and mass executions

The legacy of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who led Soviet secret police in the "Red Terror," still confounds Russia.

Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Felix Dzerzhinsky led the Cheka, Soviet Union's first secret police.
  • The Cheka was infamous for executing thousands during the Red Terror of 1918.
  • The Cheka later became the KGB, the spy organization where Russia's President Putin served for years.
Keep reading Show less