We are de-evolving.
If you doubt that take a look of people using their smartphones as they walk down the street.
You notice how their heads are slumped over as they walk?
Now go look up the famous “March of Progress” illustration commissioned by Time-Life for its 1965 book “Early Man.” It depicts 15 evolutionary forbearers marching from left to right over a 25 million year period.
The first eight depictions show “man” slumping over with neck bent downward on his way to becoming modern man standing erect with head not looking down but pointing straight ahead.
It’s time to add a 16th figure to the “March of Progress.”
Call him “smartphone-wreckedus.”
Man is no longer using his evolved faculties to scan the horizon looking for opportunities and threats. Instead his nose is buried in a smartphone as he walks.
He doesn’t know if he is nearing a busy street where he could get struck by a car because he isn’t paying attention, or if there is a person he is about to run into. He has no fear of such incidents because he’s sure there will soon be an app for that.
Texting or looking at stupid cat videos while walking is nothing new. A study a few years back by Kaiser Family Foundation indicated those between ages 8 and 18 spend upwards of 7.5 hours a day with their noses in some form of electronic entertainment, whether it is a smartphone, tablet, computer, video games or old-fashioned TV.
It didn’t literally hit me until last week. I had just finished jogging to the gym and was opening the door to go in as a guy in perhaps his mid-20s started walking toward me. I stopped to let him exit first. I wasn’t expecting him to acknowledge me or anything. But what happened next was a complete shock. He walked right into my left shoulder, “bounced off” and kept walking while all the time he was hovering over his smartphone screen furiously typing away.
Smartphones and iPods aren’t creating a zombie generation.
They’re reversing evolution.
Give it a generation or two of walking around with smartphones necks will become naturally slumped as part of the heredity scheme.
Already surgeons that deal with spine problems are tracing pain back to all of the pressure that constantly bending one’s neck and head to access social media 24/7 is putting on the back.
And smartphones aren’t just changing our physical being. You could argue they are starting to reverse our intelligence.
Yes, one has to be pretty smart to devise many of the devices being rolled out today, even those that serve no practical purposes except for mindless entertainment. And yes, information and data is expanding at a rate that seems to double or triple every few years. But that doesn’t mean knowledge and critical thinking is doing the same.
Worse yet, the Internet contains vast amounts of data and information that aren’t necessarily interchangeable. For example, your birth record is data stating your exact age but there is information out there that likely has a different age for you. Information that you may be looking at may not always reflect accurate data.
Sharpening your intelligence or developing critical thinking is essential to make heads or tails of both information and data. But if we continue to rely on apps and such to wade through information as well as data and simply accept what is flashed on screens as the gospel truth without question, ultimately our brain’s ability to assess intelligence will atrophy.
You may already be experiencing degrees of such slippage. Remember how you once could mentally come up with the answer to 12 times 13 in your mind without even pausing? Why should you keep you math skills sharp when you can simply hit an app on a smartphone and enter some numbers and get the answer?
Are remembering phone numbers now next to impossible as most of us can simply go to our contacts and tap on the name of the person we want and the call will go through?
We view this as freeing up our minds for more important things.
Yet by simply dropping what was a daily occurrence at flexing our memories are we losing the ability to train our minds to remember things?
The best example of the danger of both trends are people who head into the mountains or the desert equipped with global position systems or simply their smartphones as guidance. They make no effort to develop trail reading skills or training their minds to capture images of their progress to replay in reverse to find their way back. There’s no need for knowledge of the stars and nature’s other directional markings because there is an app for that.
One big problem. Apps are only effective in controlled situations. No battery power, no apps. No cell reception, no maps. And while all paper maps aren’t perfect, the same is true for maps downloaded on smartphones.
What holds true for directions to get to places also holds true for other functions in life.
Instead of working on sharpening our minds and bodies, we can’t wait for the latest upgrades for our devices.
The most critical device you possess for your survival and success in life is your body and mind. Apple can’t beat it nor can Samsung, Intel, and others.
That doesn’t mean modern technology isn’t important. It is. You simply are not doing yourself – from your head and neck on down – any good if you rely too much on devices.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.