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Smart Technology Is Making Us Dumb

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Live Transcript
  • The Anxiety Over the Impact of Technology on Children

    Clip: Nicholas Carr and Genevieve Bell address the concerns of how devices and technology affect the development of children and their ability to utilize their full potential.

  • Would Socrates Have Liked the Internet?

    Clip: David Weinberger and Andrew Keen discuss how the philosopher Socrates would have reacted to the internet and its effects on the ways people think.

  • 2-Minute Debate: Is Smart Tech Making Us Dumb?

    Is our Smart Technology making us dumb? This debate short is part of a series co-produced by Intelligence Squared U.S. and Newsy.

Debate Details

Smart technology grants us unprecedented, immediate access to knowledge and to each other—a ubiquitous and seamless presence in everyday life. But is there a downside to all of this connectivity? It’s been said that smart technology creates dependency on devices, narrows our world to echo chambers, and impairs cognitive skills through shortcuts and distraction. Are smart tech devices guiding so much of our decision making that we are losing autonomy without even realizing it? Or are these concerns an overstatement of the negative effects of high-tech consumption?

The Debaters

For the motion

Nicholas Carr

Author, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us & The Shallows

Nicholas Carr writes about technology and culture. He is the author of the acclaimed new book The Glass Cage: Automation and Us (2014), which examines... Read More

Andrew Keen

Internet Entrepreneur & Author, How To Fix The Future

Andrew Keen is one of the world's best known and controversial commentators on the digital revolution. He is an internet entrepreneur and the author... Read More

Against the motion

Genevieve Bell

Anthropologist & VP, Intel Corporation

Genevieve Bell is an Intel Fellow and vice president of the Corporate Strategy Office at Intel Corporation. She leads a team of social scientists... Read More

David Weinberger

Senior Researcher, Berkman Center & Author, Too Big to Know

David Weinberger is a senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, where he previously served as co-director of... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • From autopilot to apps, our lives have become increasingly automated. By depending on devices instead of actively engaging in work or leisure, our cognitive skills fade away.
  • The internet—as the central medium by which we read, write, and learn—has fundamentally changed the wiring of our brains, diminishing our ability to think deeply and critically.
  • Humans are not effective multitaskers, and digital media's constant distractions weaken our focus and scatter our attention.
  • Instead of broadening our intellectual and sociocultural horizons, social media narrows our worlds to echo chambers.
  • Tech giants know more about us than we know about ourselves. As they relate to us as mere consumers, as data, we lose our autonomy.
Against The Motion
  • The digital revolution has reinvented knowledge, replacing traditional constraints with open, limitless networks. With the internet, humans can work together to infinitely scale knowledge.
  • With our 24/7, hyperconnected networks, knowledge has been democratized, giving increasing agency to everyone, everywhere.
  • The efficient, seamless presence of digital technologies has freed us from menial tasks, thereby opening space in our heads for higher pursuits.
  • Technology is what we make it, not vice versa. Far from mindless, passive consumers, people across the world are actively engaging with technology to better their lives and societies.

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The Research

The Research

Digital Life in 2025

Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie
March 11, 2014

Experts predict the Internet will become ‘like electricity’ — less visible, yet more deeply embedded in people’s lives for good and ill.

The Memex in Your Pocket

Will Oremus
March 7, 2013

How technology is expanding our minds.

How Technology Is Warping Your Memory

Carolyn Gregoire
December 11, 2013

Technology changes the way we live our daily lives, the way we learn, and the way we use our faculties of attention -- and a growing body of research has suggested that it may have profound effects on our memories (particularly the short-term, or working, memory), altering and in some cases impairing its function.

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