Some of the less publicised disadvantages of technological innovations
The world is now at a point where its inhabitants are more connected than ever before, being able to communicate text, photos and videos within seconds. Today the latest movies and music can be downloaded instantly and moments in social settings where questions are left unanswered are becoming increasingly scarce thanks to smartphones, Google and Wikipedia. The impact of recent technological developments is so great that words like Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat and phrases like “Netflix and chill” have made their way into almost every major language around the globe.
Despite all these advancements it would be a mistake to assume that the recent technological revolution of the past few decades has come without some less desirable side effects, a fact that more and more studies are beginning to show. It is already well documented that while we are able to communicate with each other more easily than ever before, interpersonal interactions are becoming less common. People seem to prefer to engage with each other through the filter of a screen and face-to-face encounters are frequently interrupted by a glance at a text message, status update or notification. It has also been acknowledged that the human attention span is rapidly dissipating as a consequence of the ability people now have to access so much information so quickly.
However, two recent studies have shown that there are some more alarming consequences of modern technology to our physical and mental well-being. The first of these is a study conducted by the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Sydney and published on the online journal Ophthalmology earlier this month. The results of this study suggest that our reliance on and frequent interaction with the screens of computers, phones and tablets is causing nearsightedness and that this condition will likely affect 4.8 billion people (49.8% of the global population) by 2050 with 1 in 10 being at risk of blindness. This is a drastic rise from the 1.4 billion (23% of the global population) people that nearsightedness afflicted in 2000 and the scientists behind the study claim this is a real cause for concern. To combat the effects of interacting with computer screens regularly they advocate a break from them when possible in conjunction with regular participation in outdoor activities.
On the other side of the world, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine have recently released a study that argues utter laziness such as that exhibited in the popular activity of binge-watching television series is connected to brain shrinkage in later years of life. These scientists found a direct connection between physical fitness and brain volume decades later using data taken over the course of 20 years from 1500 people. Although causation has not yet been established, the results of this study do confirm that idleness and small brains are linked. The study suggests a high probability of this being due to the brain cells dying and thinning out more quickly in the heads of those who are less physically active.
Although this information may not be particularly earth shattering to anyone who has ever experienced sore eyes from sitting behind a computer screen for hours on end or to an audience who has felt the brain stagnation that occurs after a Narcos marathon, it is nevertheless important because it reminds us to consider our health and to exercise caution in our ever-increasing use of technology.