Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Almost as important as climate change?

Doesn't sound too important at all then, but Lady Greenfield, one of Britain's most prominent female scientists, claimed the issue of the harmful effect of the internet was "almost as important as climate change".

Society should be aware of the potentially harmful effects of the internet, networking sites and computer games on the brain, leading neuroscientist and peer Baroness Susan Greenfield has said.
Lady Greenfield, one of Britain's most prominent female scientists, claimed the issue was "almost as important as climate change".
"I think the quality of our existence is threatened,'' she said. ''We need discussions about this, we need debate, we need more of an effort put in.
"We need to recognise this as an issue rather than sweeping it under the carpet.
"We should acknowledge that this is bringing an unprecedented change in our lives and we have to work out whether it is for good or bad."
In January Lady Greenfield controversially lost her job as director of the Royal Institution.
She spoke at the British Festival of Science at Aston University in Birmingham.
She said some ''very good things'' were emerging from information technology but added: "By the same token we have got to be very careful about what price we are paying."
Possible benefits of the technology included a higher IQ, better memory and faster processing of information.
On the other side of the equation, social networking sites might reduce empathy, said Lady Greenfield.
Using search engines to find facts may hinder the ability to learn, while computer games could "make us more reckless in our day-to-day lives".
"Rather than sleepwalking into this we should be the masters and not the slaves of technology and harnessing it in ways that we could do exciting and fulfilling things with," she added.
Lady Greenfield insisted that she was not scaremongering.
"We have anecdotal evidence from talking to parents," she said. "Every single parent I have spoken to so far is concerned.
"I have yet to find a parent who says, 'I am really pleased that my kid is spending so much time in front of the computer.'
"We need to take control of our own lives and society. If we don't, who else will?"
 Ok, the effect of violent computer games on people is constantly being thrown up as one of the causes of violence in society, usually by those who weren't involved in the football violence and race rioting in the 1970's when as far as I'm aware there weren't computer games polluting our brains. If anything the effect has been to make people more private and less likely to go out looking for trouble so I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing. Most of the parental worry I suspect is down to the fact that they don't really understand what their kids are up to or who they are talking too, rather than the effect of the technology. The mass use of telephones cause similar complaints when people suddenly found they couldn't get their kids off the things, even today you can see it in texting and other mobile phone uses. In the end it comes down to parental control rather than the effect of the technology in general. Whilst the use of search engines to find facts can cause problems particularly when the facts are wrong, it's no worse than nipping down to the library to find out information and whilst books are accurate to a degree, they aren't always the latest information out there and indeed may be well out of date too. Still it is a worry, though generally anyone using a source like wikipedia to advance an argument had better watch out as they are likely to be torn to shreds by other more knowledgeable in their fields.
I do agree with her that we should take control of our lives and society, I just don't see the unexpected use of technology to be an issue in this. I suspect it's more down to trying to cut off the supply of information and news to us that's at the root of this issue. After all if they can keep us in the dark, we cause them any problems. I suspect they'd wished that had happened over global warming where we'd just done as we were told and believed the lies, rather than used the internet to question and organise against them.


7 annotations:

Fascist Hippy said...

the issue of the harmful effect of the internet was "almost as important as climate change"

So it's not very important at all then.

JuliaM said...

She's barking. Absolutely barking.

Julius Whacket said...

She ain't convincing to me.

This review

may be worth a look at. Fears about the internet’s “slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity” overlook the fact that this was happening before the internet came into existence. At the same time new info tech users “tend to seek out views that correspond with their own; they are no more knowledgeable about politics than their counterparts and, in fact, seem to be less so… they do not seem to be more likely to vote.” I’ve read other research into young people’s use of internet that tends to bear out that claim...

Mark Wadsworth said...

Fascist Hippy beat me to it :-)

James Higham said...

So glad I'm part of the problem.

Chuckles said...

Wot Wadsworth sed.

English Pensioner said...

From an academic point of view, she is probably correct. Too many people tend to take what they find on the internet at face value without question. Books had to be peer reviewed, anyone can publish on the internet. As a family historian I met someone who said "I've traced my family history back as far as possible" when she meant "I can't find any more on the internet". Rubbish, very little of mine can be found on the internet, and some of that which you can, I know to be incorrect.
Look up "dissertations" in Google to find the number of people prepared to write one.
Like all things, the internet has its good and bad sides.