Humans’ Overdependence on Technology: Negative Effects

Introduction

It is important to note that technology is one of the main drivers of human achievement in all areas of life. It allowed to free people from any form of physical labor and greatly assist with routine cognitive tasks. Technology is the sole reason for human productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency, and since it is impactful, it is deeply integrated into human life. However, it is evident that technology can be overused and come with a price in the form of dependency. Although technology profoundly changed the conditions of people’s lives for the better, its extensive use led to the fact that humans are indeed too dependent on it, which brings a host of ramifications and dangers. Thus, humans have become too reliant on technology, which is damaging them in a wide range of ways.

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Processed Foods

Technology had one of the most significant impacts on food production, such as agriculture, which made food cheaper and available for all people. Although hunger is still a major problem in some developing nations, the world does not suffer from famines and mass starvation. However, the overreliance on technology also negatively impacts public health in the form of processed foods, which cause obesity and other metabolic diseases (Monteiro et al., 2018). It is evident that raw and unprocessed foods are the most beneficial for health and longevity since the human body evolved to digest as such. For example, processed foods, such as sweets, are made with technology to be easily digestible, which causes blood glucose spikes that stress the pancreas and make the entire body insulin insensitive. In other words, technology overuse and dependency enable the production of processed foods, which damage human health.

Social Communication

Humans are social creatures, which is why the brain is hardwired for interactions with others, recognition of emotions, and empathy. Although technology improved the overall reach of human communication by making people connected, it also made these interactions shallow and frivolous. Deep and rewarding bonding between people cannot be replaced with technology-assisted communication, which means face-to-face interactions are still critical for healthy human development. For example, chatting, emailing, voice messaging, and even video-based communications are unable to replace the important intricacies of real human interaction. For example, excessive use of online platforms and tools for communication over face-to-face format can cause loneliness and depression (Hood, Creed, & Mills, 2018). Therefore, overreliance on technology as means for interaction and communication between people can contribute to improper mental health and mood.

Information Overload

One should be aware that technology is a broad term, which encompasses anything from simple tools to information systems. Advanced technology, such as the internet and social media, creates an environment where people are bombarded with too much information at all times through notifications, news, entertainment, updates, trends, viral videos, and personal communications. It is evident that such an excess of information causes overload due to the fact that human attention and attention span is a limited resource since one cannot pay attention to everything simultaneously. Thus, technology creates an environment of distraction and being unfocused instead of being informed. It is especially true when social media and communication networks span globally, which means that information is constantly being created.

Sedentary Lifestyle

It is important to note that technology achieved the most in freeing humans from many aspects of physical labor, which means that the current work mostly revolves around cognitive tasks. However, it led to the fact that humans became highly sedentary, where physical inactivity is a major health concern. It is stated that physical inactivity is not only the main cause of premature death and morbidity but also carries a substantial economic burden (Ding et al., 2016). In other words, human health is negatively impacted by physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle, which technology enables in order to promote comfort and convenience. The latter elements are not the problem, but such a detriment is indicative of the fact that humans are too dependent on technology, which costs people’s health and well-being. As with many examples stated above, humans rely on technology too much, ignoring that human bodies did not evolve to be sedentary.

Sleep Disruption

For the majority of human existence, the sun was the only source of light, which meant that people developed sophisticated and precise circadian mechanisms revolving around light availability. In addition, night time was the period of low information input due to, for example, low visibility, which meant that sleep periods were adjusted in accordance with circadian rhythms. However, technology at the current state is the greatest disruptor of sleep due to devices emitting blue light mimicking the sun’s effects and overloading the human brain with information keeping him or her awake. It is stated that “time spent using technology significantly predicted shorter subsequent sleep duration and vice versa” (Mazzer, Bauducco, Linton, & Boersma, 2018, p. 112). In other words, sleep deprivation affects humans from the earliest stage of development, and it is caused primarily by the fact that people depend on technology excessively where it impairs the overall ability to rest and recover.

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Drugs vs. Prevention

The overly high dependency of humans on technology also affects the current healthcare and medicine. It is deeply manifested in the fact that modern medicine primarily focuses on treating diseases and disorders with pharmacological approaches instead of preventive and lifestyle change measures. It is evident why it is the case since selling drugs is more profitable than advocating for lifestyle improvements, but the production and alteration of these pharmacological products are possible due to technology. Fields such as biotechnology and molecular biology use sophisticated tools to extract and duplicate specific chemical compounds to use as the treatment for diseases, which is not the problem in itself. The issue emerges when the incentives are put in favor of drugs instead of lifestyle modification or other preventive measures. Such an approach is also connected to the fact that humans rely on technology excessively, which is why the problem solving stems from the pharmacological standpoint.

Politics

In recent decades, with the proliferation of social media and online communication, it has become evident that democratic institutions and democracy itself are in danger. Misinformation or false information spreads faster than factual ones, and big data analysts can abuse data to influence elections. Cyberattacks and cyber threats can allow one nation to impair the democracy of another. In addition, many social media companies collect and sell the user data without the user’s explicit consent, which means the invasion of privacy takes place. In other words, technology comes with a host of political concerns, which is primarily due to the fact that humans rely and depend on technology too much. By not incentivizing social media platforms to be respectful of one’s privacy and clinging to these tools, users collectively enable such violations to occur. In addition, users, instead of fact-checking the incoming information, became affected by political agenda tricks and manipulations, which results in elections, where candidates are selected not due to their plans, but personality and charm. The excessive reliance on technology for conducting political discourse put democracy at peril.

Dangers of AI

Artificial Intelligence or AI is a serious danger, which is an ultimate manifestation of technology. Although AI is already in use by many tech companies, it is artificial general intelligence or AGI, which is a threat. AI is the next step at eliminating the need for humans’ cognitive capabilities, which means that people will no longer be needed for almost anything. More realistic and immediate danger will come in the form of automation, which will replace the majority of the workforce. Another threat is an existential one, which revolves around AGI becoming far more intelligent than humans, which will make it uncontrollable and powerful. Therefore, overdependence on technology can end humanity as one knows it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, technology is a mere instrument, which can be highly beneficial, but if abused or overused, it can cause irreparable damage. Humans’ overdependence on technology is already impairing their physical health, well-being, and mental health. It is also disrupting the foundational democratic institutions and privacy rights. It can also be a source of more existential dangers, such as AGI, which means that there are both minor and serious dangers of being too dependent on technology.

References

Ding, D., Lawson, K. D., Kolbe-Alexander, T. L., Finkelstein, E. A., Katzmarzyk, P. T., van Mechelen, W., & Pratt, M. (2016). The economic burden of physical inactivity: A global analysis of major non-communicable diseases. The Lancet, 388(10051), 1311–1324. Web.

Hood, M., Creed, P. A., & Mills, B. J. (2018). Loneliness and online friendships in emerging adults. Personality and Individual Differences, 133, 96–102. Web.

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Mazzer, K., Bauducco, S., Linton, S. J., & Boersma, K. (2018). Longitudinal associations between time spent using technology and sleep duration among adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 66, 112–119. Web.

Monteiro, C., Moubarac, J., Levy, R., Canella, D., Louzada, M., & Cannon, G. (2018). Household availability of ultra-processed foods and obesity in nineteen European countries. Public Health Nutrition, 21(1), 18-26. Web.

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