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Niall Cummins

English 1010
Briggs
Due 11/10

Technology: Is it Helping or Hurting?

Introduction:
Since cavemen first discovered fire, humans have been obsessed with
technology. First came simple objects like hammers and nails, and then came the
wheel. And now, today, we have the power to learn virtually anything in the palm of our
hand.
But is our rapidly advancing technology finally starting to hold us back? Are we
entering an age where our computers are doing all of the thinking for us, leaving us with
a useless skull full of jello? Or are we evolving and becoming smarter with the help of
our new automated intelligence? I find this to be an entertaining question because I do
spend a lot of time on my devices. I would like to think that with the power to know
anything at the tips of my fingers, technology is making us smarter, not dumber. Im
investigating to find out.

Are Smartphone Making us Dumber?


Poladian, Charles. "Are Smartphones Making Us Dumber? New Study Says They
Are Making Us Lazy, But Other Experts Say Maybe Not." International
Business Times. IBT, 9 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Nov. 2015.

Summary:
Charles Poladians website article, Are Smartphones Making us Dumber? has
an emphasis on smartphone technology. Poladian opens by saying, Weve all had that
experience in which instead of taking a moment and using our brains to try and come up
with an answer to a question, we quickly turn to Google to do the thinking for us. A new
study is looking at how this behavior makes us lazy thinkers, but the jury is still out on
whether our smartphones actually make us dumber (par. 1). The article takes two
positions, one side arguing for our reliance on smartphones, and the other arguing
against it.
The University of Waterloo conducted a study and found that analytical thinkers
with stronger cognitive skills used search engines less than their counterparts (par. 2).
Basically stating people who think more, dont use their phones as often to shortcut for
an answer. They did find support for an association between smartphone usage and
lower intelligence. But are the smartphones making us dumb, or do less intelligent
people just use smartphones more? That is the next question students at Waterloo will
be investigating.
Dr. Johnathan Wai, from Duke University, believes that there are a great number
of advantages to smartphone usage. Dr. Wai states, New technology has the most
power to amplify the intelligence we already have, It can also broaden our skill sets and
our ability to deal with the ever increasing complexity of our lives (par. 4).
In conclusion, Poladian includes a quote from Dr. Wai, Many of the technologies
we are using today have already changed us, for better or worse, but we cant be sure
about the aggregate long-term effects (par. 7).

Rhetorical Analysis:
This article by Christopher Poladian was published in International Business
Times Magazine. He is an editor for the company and has been working for them for
over three years. He is also a writer and editor for Music.fm, DailyRX, and Popstache.
His audience ranges from music lovers, to medical students, to people who study
business. He appeals to logos when he references the study done by the University of
Waterloo. He strongly appeals to kairos throughout the entire article, as it is written
about smartphones.
Assessment:
In this day and age, who doesnt have a smartphone? I expected this article to
give me a little more insight into whether or not smartphones actually do make us
dumber, especially given the name of the article. However, in the opening paragraph he
states that, The jury is still out on whether our smartphone actually make us dumber
(par. 1). If I was a critique, I would have given him a bad review due to the misleading
title, but once I moved past that I did find some good information. The study done by the
University of Waterloo was the best piece of information included. I found it interesting
that they did find a correlation between smartphone usage and lowered intelligence. I
was not expecting this. In fact, I was expecting quite the opposite. But like Poladian
says, The jury is still out (par. 1).

Is Smart Making Us Dumb?


Morozov, Evgeny. "Is Smart Making Us Dumb?" Wall Street Journal 23 Feb. 2013.
Print.

Summary:
In Evgeny Morozovs entry Is Smart Making Us Dumb? he emphasises smart
technology in general. In his introduction he writes about a new invention called
BinCam, a trash can that takes pictures of the things you throws away, and if what you
threw away was recyclable, it will upload a picture of it to Facebook and publicly shame
you for it. He also references other smart technologies, such as smart umbrellas that
know when it is going to rain, and shoes that know when they are wearing out.
Now lets get to the bottom of it. Are these technologies helping or hurting us?
According to an unnamed group of researchers in Silicon Valley, these technologies are
not just giving consumers new and upgraded products, but they are actually teaching
the consumers how to behave. It is almost as if we are being trained by our trash can.
Googles CFO, Patrick Pichette, says that Google, Is really just an engineering
company, with all these computer scientists that see the world as a completely broken
place (par. 8). Google thinks that all of the worlds problems, from traffic jams, to energy
conservation can all be solved using technology. Jane McGonigal, a professional TED
speaker, has a talk where she says, Our reality is broken, but can be fixed by making
the real world more like a video game, with points for doing good (par. 8).
According to Morozov, there are good smart technologies, and bad smart
technologies, just like there is with anything. He defines good smart technology as
leaving us in complete control of the situation, whereas bad smart technology makes
certain choice and behaviors impossible. He believes that these bad technologies are
taking away our sense of self autonomy.
Rhetorical Analysis:

Evgeny Morozov is a writer and researcher of the political and social implications
of technology. He is also the senior editor at The New Republic. He has written
extensively into the subject of technology. His article, Is Smart Making Us Dumb has
been published countless times, but was first published by The New Republic. He
interviewed the Chief Financial Officer of Google to have this article written, which
highly appeals to logos and establishes credibility. Not just anyone can make an
appointment with the financial head of one of the biggest international companies.
Assessment:
This was a wonderfully written article to read, although rather than answering
some of my questions, it simply raised more. Are virtual reality and reality one day going
to coexist? Are we one day going to lose our self autonomy, leaving all of our thinking
up to the robots? Its almost as if one day we will become the robots. Maybe we already
have. It almost makes me fear for the uncertainty of our technological future.

Smarter Than You Think


Thompson, Clive. "Smarter Than You Think." They Say I Say: With Readings. 3E
ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015. 340-360. Print.

Summary:
In 1997, for the first time in history, a computer beat a chess grand master. The
computer was IBMs supercomputer named Deep Blue and the chess grand master
was Garry Kasparov. The computer beat him in only 19 moves. This did not come as a
surprise to anyone, as people had been predicting for ages that computers would one
day be able to outsmart humans.

After this, a question was asked. Which is smarter at chess-humans or


computers? The answer is neither. The two working side by side are even better. In
2005 there was a freestyle chess tournament that allowed you to create a team of
however many people or computers you would like. Many teams had grand masters on
them who had chess scores of 2,500 out of 3,000. However, the winning team consisted
of two young men who were ranked around 1,400, and their laptop computers.
Computers can look at a chess board and calculate thousands of possible moves in
under second, so the benefit to playing with a computer isnt about strategy, it is about
speed.
Clive Thompson says, Were all playing advanced chess these days. We just
havent learned to appreciate it (347). Later on in the paragraph, Thompson goes on to
say Paper and reliable pens made it possible to externalize our thoughts quickly (347).
This brings us back to the earliest form of information technology. Before we started
writing, all of our thoughts were in our heads, and nowhere else. Look at the world
today. We have pictures, videos, text. We basically keep a record of our entire lives
without even thinking about it.
Thompson also says, Every new tool shapes the way we thinks, as well as what
we think about. The printed word helped make our cognition linear and abstract, along
with vastly enlarging our stores of knowledge (348). Finally, although technology has
done so much for us, multi-tasking has also made it very hard for us to focus on
something for an extended period of time. It requires a high level of mindfulness, or as
Thompson puts it, Paying attention to your own attention (355).
Rhetorical Analysis:

When Thompson says, Were all playing advanced chess these days. We just
haven't learned to appreciate it (347) he is using a metaphor. Of course we arent all
playing advanced games of chess with computers, he is talking about how we all use
technology to assist us throughout our lives. He uses quite a few more metaphors as
well. He likens status updates to giving us an ESP-like ability to be able to know what
those around us are doing at any given point in time. Technology has done three things
for us. It has allowed for an unlimited amount of memory, allowing us to record our
entire lives. It has also made it easier for us to find connections. Finally, it encourages a
ton of communication and publishing.
Assessment:
This reading gave me a lot of insight into how technology has evolved throughout
the years, and how it has evolved us as well. It also brings up some startling questions,
such as, What happens if the internet goes down: Do our brains collapse, too? (357).
After reading this, I can definitely see how technology has shaped the human race
today. What would the world be like without technology?

Technology Doesnt Dumb Us Down. It Frees Our Minds


Darlin, Damon. "Technology Doesn't Dumb Us Down. It Frees Our Minds." New
York Times 21 Sept. 2008. Print.
Summary:
Darlin Damon says that It is hard to think of a technology that was not feared
when it was introduced (par. 8). Socrates feared that writing would have a negative
impact on mans ability to think. When the internet was created, people were afraid that
it would take over the world.

One invention of today that takes up a lot of our times is our phones. They have
maps, internet access, and can even play games. However, lots of other technologies
save us a lot of time, such as tax software, and calculators. These inventions
tremendously cut down on the amount of time it takes to do tedious mathematical tasks.
Some people are time-wasters because of technology, and others are time-savers, and
the gap may only grow.
Rhetorical Analysis:
Technology Doesnt Dumb Us Down. It Frees Our Minds. was published by the
New York Times in 2008. It was written by Damon Darlin. Darlin is an editor of The
Upshot, which is a politics and economics site run by The New York Times. He had
been working for The New York Times for three years at the time of this articles
publication. The New York Times is one of Americas biggest publishers, and is read by
millions of people all around the world. The intended audience for this piece would be
the millions of American people who use technology on a daily basis.
Assessment:
This article gave me some great insight into what technology has done for us. It
has given us the ability to spend our time doing better things, rather than doing tedious
math problems and spending hours and hours filling out tax forms. We may be
somewhat dumber in a sense, because we no longer have to do our math ourselves,
but technology has still helped us save time.
Conclusion:

Rather than answering all of my questions, these articles have just raised even
more thought provoking questions for me to look into. What does our future in
technology look like? How short will our attention spans become?
Are Smartphones Making Us Dumber taught me that people who use Google to
find answers more, are less likely to have many answers in their heads. Evgeny
Morozov opened my eyes to the fact that we really do not have any idea what
technology is going to produce in the future. We have no way to tell if the technology of
tomorrow will make the world a better place, or be absolutely catastrophic.
Technology Doesnt Slow Us Down. It Frees Our Minds showed me truly how
far we have come as a species because of technology. Weve done great things.
Without even giving it a second thought, we have compiled the largest source of
information in the history of the world, and it is growing every day. I definitely have
come to a conclusion: Technology is not making us dumber. In fact, technology has
evolved with us and made us smarter than could have ever been possible without it, but
because we constantly have so much information being fed to us by our technology, our
attention spans have gotten much shorter. The only bad news is that technology is now
starting to become even smarter than us, and because of this we have no idea what the
future of technology holds for us. I sure hope its a fun ride.