Access to all the world’s information leaves us with digital amnesia [STUDY]
Our reliance on Google and the information stored on our smartphones is changing the way our brains work, according to an international study.
Research commissioned by Kaspersky Lab, a provider of anti-virus and email security software, revealed that many of us can no longer recall what would once have been critical information, such as our home phone number.
We have become so reliant on the internet and our various electronic gadgets that we are suffering from “digital amnesia”.
The study showed that phone numbers we use regularly are no longer in our heads. Almost half (49 per cent) of respondents could not remember the phone number for their partner. That rises to 71 per cent for their children and 57 per cent for their place of work.
“If we do not recall old memories, information gradually fades until we forget it,” Kaspersky Lab said in a blog post summarising the findings. “A brain can also overwrite irrelevant data with more topical facts and memories.”
Protecting critical data
This study is a nice piece of content marketing for the Kaspersky Lab team. They’ve been able to generate some attractive infographics and a neat little video with the data they collected. Their blog post has earned 150 or so social shares.
By highlighting how reliant we are on our smartphones, tablets and laptops, the company can also highlight the value of its security solutions.
In case anyone missed that link, there is a section in the study that asks specifically about how well people protect their devices.
A significant share (38 per cent) of younger people and one quarter (25 per cent) of women responding to the survey said they would be “totally frantic” if they lost their smartphone.
Despite that, 22 per cent of participants said they didn’t have additional security installed on any of their devices.
Dumbest and smartest of all time
For some people, this survey will be seen as further evidence that search engines, social media and smartphones are making us all stupid. We used to know stuff, now we have to Google how to boil an egg, or so the argument goes.
Either the generation that has grown up with access to all the world’s information in their pockets is the dumbest generation ever to have lived – or the smartest.
Respondents to the Kaspersky Lab survey noted that one of the reasons they rely on Google is that it’s quick. Not only that it’s more likely to be right than some of the urban myths and old wives’ tales that previous generations relied upon.
Separate research has shown that so-called “millennials” are in fact engaged and interested in the world around them, rather then apathetic, uninformed and self-obsessed.
Young people are, for example, enthusiastic consumers of news. They might not get ink on their fingers like their parents and grandparents, but they search for, read and shares news stories, particularly on social media.
It’s also worth noting that no longer storing useless information in your brain has its advantages. It makes room for more important things, for one.
And Google is not the first human innovation that has allowed our brains to re-prioritise. There was a time when knowledge of how to start a fire or kill your own dinner were critical to your survival. Thankfully most of us can now use that brainpower for more pressing tasks.