Whether or not technological progress is a positive phenomenon is a controversial question. Much has been written and said about the effects of media and technologies on human performance. Steven Pinker’s article in New York Times is a reasonable response to public concerns about technology, progress, and media evolution.
According to Pinker, technologies are the only things that keep people smart. There is an emerging consensus that technologies do not lead to higher returns in business but result in overspending; however, the current research does not support this belief.
Steven Pinker is correct in that technologies help students and scientists to improve their skills. The Internet is not dangerous by itself and does not lead to the development of emotional and psychological disorders; rather, when used reasonably, electronic media hold a promise to improve health and wellbeing of people.
Steven Pinker’s article in New York Times is a reasonable response to public concerns about technologies, media, and progress. Thousands of people perceive the Internet as a source of multiple negative effects on individual and business performance. Nicholas G. Carr is no exception: Carr is confident that technologies do not improve organizational and business competitiveness but result in overspending.
Yet, these claims do not reflect the realities of technological advancement. Pinker claims that technologies are a hallmark of the current scientific progress.
The Internet and other electronic media help to multiply discoveries like fruit flies and speed up the implementation of various scientific projects (Pinker). It goes without saying that, in some instances, excessive information can be addictive and damaging. This is particularly the case of people with attention deficit disorder (Pinker). However, digital media and technologies are not dangerous by nature. When used reasonably, they are the only things that keep people smart (Pinker).
Steven Pinker is correct: when used reasonably, digital media help individuals and organizations to improve their performance and skills. Writing, writing processes, and literacy present a good example of human-technology integration, since writing is the fundamental human skill.
According to MacArthur, the use of technologies improves traditional writing outcomes (259). Automatic spell check helps struggling students to meet their learning objectives and improve their writing results (MacArthur 260). In other instances, technologies facilitate better learning experiences through automated feedback (MacArthur 260).
Technologies do not affect all learning processes directly but change student expectations and experiences in the classroom (MacArthur 260). For example, an Internet search task activates brain regions that are usually involved in reading a text, and the more experienced are Internet users the greater extent of brain activity they demonstrate (Small, Moody, Siddarth & Bookheimer 122).
Individuals with prior Internet search experiences demonstrate greater extent of activation in brain regions responsible for decision making and complex reasoning (Small et al 122). These media can support individuals in their striving to improve their writing and decision making skills. As a result, they improve the quality of their social relationships and outcomes.
Pinker suggests that “the constant arrival of information packets can be distracting or addictive, especially to people with attention deficit disorder”. However, even people with ADHD can benefit from the rapid advancement of technologies. Fenstermacher, Olympia and Sheridan describe a variety of computer-mediated programs for children with Attention Deficits Hyperactivity Disorder (200).
The researchers claim that the benefits of integrating computer technologies with instructional models for children with ADHD are numerous. First, computer-based programs and video content can imitate actual social interactions and improve children’s social skills (Fenstermacher, Olympia & Sheridan 201).
Second, computer simulations can be easily suspended at any point, if children do not understand their meaning (Fenstermacher, Olympia & Sheridan 201). Apparently, technologies exemplify an important factor of progress in all fields of human performance. Technologies are not dangerous by nature, and the negative effects are entirely the products of unreasonable technology use.
Pinker is absolutely reasonable in his discussion of technologies. The author realizes that technologies can be particularly damaging, when used incorrectly. Pinker believes that the solution is not to reject technologies but to develop instruments of self-control. Technologies help people to manage their intellectual output (Pinker). They improve the basic human skills and contribute to the development of relevant solutions to various problems. As a result, society should not panic about new electronic media.
Pinker is confident that digital media are the only factors that keep us smart. Nothing is perfect, and only effective strategies of self-control can protect us from the negative effects of new electronic media. I agree with Pinker in that media are an important factor of personal and organizational progress.
I believe that humans are responsible for turning technologies and electronic media into a destructive force. Technologies are not dangerous by nature but require a reasonable, balanced approach. The main task is to develop strategies that help to reduce the negative influence of electronic media on human cognition. The future research must focus on the analysis and creation of self-control mechanisms and strategies to retrieve our intellectual potential to the fullest.
Carr, Nicholas G. “Why IT Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” Harvard Business School, 2003. Web. 12 April 2011.
Fenstermacher, Kevin, Daniel Olympia, and Susan M. Sheridan. “Effectiveness of a Computer-Facilitated, Interactive Social Skills Training Program for Boys with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” School Psychology Quarterly, 21.2 (2006): 197-224. Print.
MacArthur, Charles A. “The Effects of New Technologies on Writing and Writing Process.” In Charles A. MacArthur, Steve Graham and Jill Fitzgerald, Handbook of Writing Research, New York: Guilford Press, 2006, pp.248-60. Print.
Pinker, Steven. “Mind Over Mass Media.” The New York Times, 2010. Web. 12 April 2011.
Small, Gary W., Teena D. Moody, Prabha Siddarth, and Susan Y. Bookheimer. “Your Brain on Google: Patterns of Cerebral Activation during Internet Searching.” American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 17.2 (2009): 116-126. Print.