Jake is running fast on the railway tracks, collecting coins every second. From the opposite direction, a train is fast approaching and he is running right into it! He needs to grab that gift box on the track…he is just seconds away from the box and the train…

The phone screen was dirty with the imprints of my thumb all over it, my hands were sweaty and I was about to break my own record highest score. But I got distracted by a notification and Jake got run over by the train. Game over.It was January 2017, the notification was a news alert about two teenagers who died while taking a selfie on a railway track in front of an oncoming train, in New Delhi. The irony sent cold waves through my body as I had fantasied about being Jake from the video game. The news story gave me a taste of what would happen in reality. It was a dumb thought.Smart people are designing technology which is unintentionally influencing layman to act dumb. Just as Brett Fischmannand Evan Selinger in their book ‘Re-engineering Humanity’ said,“Smart technology is making us act like ‘simple machines’.”(Partan & Goldstone, 2018)

Figure 1: Selfie death statistics          

                       # Selfie turns Kilfie

When faced with the question, is technology making people smarter or dumber? Our thoughts may meander weighing the positives and negatives. Instant solutions, ease of living may seem fancy at first but the extreme of suicides and innocent deaths overshadow the shine of technology. Nicholas Carr says that, “Internet is a general purpose digital communication infrastructure that pushed intelligence to the ends of the network.”(Carr, 2010) Surely one can agree with this. On the fateful evening of June 2013, a lady in Belmont driving into Brighton Street drove her car onto a railway track because her GPS said so. What a mistake, she must have realized later! Clearly awareness of surroundings, common sense and simple reasoning was lacking. This is not one of a kind incident and similar accidents have been reported. 

Further, selfie has turned into ‘killfie’ in India as the country accounts for about half of the 259 reported selfie deaths between 2011 and 2017. Russia, the US and Pakistan are next in order on the death list. Today TikTok is a rage, people do all kinds of weird, obnoxious, funny and dumb things to become famous and the app supports people’s desires in any possible manner. A few incidents where girls and boys posted live TikTok videos of their suicide was also reported. Very similar was the Blue Whale challenge that manipulated the players into taking their own lives in the end. Hence technology is making people crazy, addicts, is impacting their mental health, causing depression, loneliness, reducing the ability to think critically or even simply depend on oneself.

It’s questionable how people outsource thinking and rely on technology to manage their day to day activities and hence make themselves vulnerable to cyber-crime and technology itself for the sake of cheap convenience. A lay man may feel that everything is done online today and give out details of his bank accounts on phone to frauds posing as bank representatives. Blackmail and extortion is rampant even on social media. Personal details are put out without filter and relations with anonymous friends are maintained through weak ties. The plagiarism checker is another tool that is evidence of how technology is making man dumb. Internet brought library of Congress at our finger tips and copy paste became a tradition. Research, hard work and inquiry gave way to laziness.

Further, technology itself is not an invincible tool, it’s faulty too. It was hilarious how when Amazon Echo recorded a Portland couple’s conversation about hardwood floors and sent it to some of their contacts – all without their knowledge. So is technology really expanding our capabilities? Our extreme dependence on technology is only making us act like dumb puppets. Technology once was a boon to the modern world helping us connect across oceans in seconds and globalize, but now, slowly people are turning into prisoners of technology. They are unable to draw a line between real life and virtual environment. Thus it’s necessary that humanity floats on and not drown in technology.

Author-Lichchavi Harishekar

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