One Minute Lecture

Ask a Researcher: Are Technological Advancements causing Mankind to Devolve?

“No,” says Senior Research Fellow in Educational Technology Kairit Tammets, but adds that misusing technology can lead lead to the devolvement of mankind.

man laptop hands

Let’s define technology first. Technology is a process by which people change their surroundings to accommodate their wishes and needs. However, technology is often thought of as its artefacts: computers, aeroplanes, software, stoves, cars, smart devices, smart buildings, smart classrooms, etc.

What is devolvement? It means going back, degrading. I do not believe that humans are creating technologies in order to degrade ourselves. We are mostly looking for possibilities to make our lives more comfortable and easier.

In recent years there has been the discussion over whether computers will take over our jobs. Yes, they will take over easily automated repetitive tasks, so-called conveyor work. Why can this be a problem for us? First, conveyor workers fear for their jobs. Employers must at the same time be ready to accommodate the need for new skills, such as people programming robots for their work, but also future work regarding robots, services and business models we cannot imagine right now.

Jobs that can be automated will disappear, but we cannot lose jobs that require thought. We should focus on how artificial intelligence and people could work side by side, completing each other.

We also talk about devolvement regarding young people (but not only) living in a smart world. How old should a child be before getting their first smart device? How long should they be allowed to have them? Should digital competences be taught in kindergartens?

Meaningfulness, sensible and goal-oriented use are important features in every field, as well as in technology, as it is not a goal in itself nor the answer to the questions we don’t even know to ask. To kids with seeing and hearing issues, technology is a chance to take part in the learning process. This gives technology a completely different meaning – it becomes a possibility.

My grandmother probably doesn’t know what book to get me for Christmas, but if she knew to ask help from Faceboot, it would probably be on point. I agree that the Internet might know too much about my. One might argue that moving in this direction will remove our humanity, as technology will decide what books we want to read, where we want to travel, etc. Are we becoming lazy?

At the same time, if we transfer all this to the context of learning and use these recommendations as study analytics, we can see the benefit – the study environment supports the student in the learning process and helps make better decisions regarding our studies.

We are amid grand changes. It is very difficult to say what the result will be for our children growing up in these changes. Research shows that using technology in studies does not enhance learning outcomes.

We keep talking our high PISA results, but maybe we should measure something in addition to PISA. Such as how could children reach these results by using technology? Are we capable of measuring things we will find important in the future and that might show how young people could use technologies in problem-solving?

Creativity and DIY projects are becoming increasingly important in technology, as well. FatLabs, Makerspaces and other cooperation and innovation networks are blooming.

Neuroscientists have said that studying and thinking are effective only when we concentrate. Multitasking, being constantly connected, and looking for new information via smart devices works against that. Your brain will thank you the next time you devote yourself to the language learning app instead of opening Twitter, Gmail and Facebook simultaneously.

Let’s not misuse technology! That way we can ensure the development of humankind.