Is Technology Controlling Your Brain?

Technology has developed to the point of addiction as it shapes how we live as individuals and function as a society. How did it get to this point? Is there anything we can do about it?

A force for good

Technology over the centuries has often been a force for good as it improves people’s lives and increases standards of living. In recent years however there is growing concern that it is having a negative effect on our physical and mental health as it captures our attention to the detriment of family, friends and even fitness. Technology is developing at such speed that much of its workings are invisible, which causes a lack of transparency about how it operates and a lack of understanding about its long-term implications.

The skills and expertise of technology companies have shifted from making worthy products to improve lives to the development of addictive services to collect and sell personal information for private profit. They have evolved from helping to hurting customers, as people’s lives and livelihoods are affected. Evidence is mounting on the moral fault lines of a strategy that relies on the addictive nature of its offerings, just as happened in the past with other products like cigarettes.

Competition between technology companies encourages dependency, as it provides handsome returns and global influence for those who win in the marketplace. The level of knowledge and scale of resources concentrated on the design of addictive products for such a young market makes it dangerous, especially to younger and more vulnerable adults.

Where to now?

Artificial intelligence is deployed by technology companies of all kinds to collect as much detail as possible to engage us in an endless downward scroll devoid of natural breaks or points of reflection. Visible and invisible, fair and unfair techniques at all levels of sophistication grab the attention, as young and old are drawn into a series of rewards that engage the brain past the point of resistance.

The current iteration of technology gathers the minute details of our private leanings to build profiles that predict our future actions and behaviours. Products are micro-targeted to encourage addiction as they cause withdrawal symptoms upon quitting; pictures are used to trigger unsettling effects as lives are impossibly compared; conversations are treated as contests of likeability and friendship; and everything is presented in a way that demands full attention, regardless of its negative impact.

Today’s technology is forcing us to live in a state of constant and unsettling anticipation removed from the traditional and more natural feelings that ground us and reinforce our value to our selves, to others, and to society.

So, technology in many of its incarnations has evolved from friend to foe, as it steals our attention to the detriment of a happy and balanced life.