• 09 JUN 19
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    Ditch the GPS. It’s ruining your brain. ( plus an article “Forget Self-Driving Cars. Bring Back the Stick Shift” )

    The following article in the Washington Post has interesting implications for our children’s future as we enter the world of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), where more and more of our thinking, and most importantly, our children’s, is done for us by our devices. How will, what has been called the Google Effect, change they way we think and our ability to think independently of our devices? A shrinking brain perhaps? The second article deals with a lack of awareness associated with self driving cars. In a future world where AI does the driving will the parts of the brain needed for driving awareness also shrink, as it is no longer needed? Perhaps hints of a dystopian world where humans can no longer function without the aid of their devices…. What is concerning about this is that research on age related cognitive impairment and memory loss also sees brain tissue shrinkage. To quote:

    Nicole Anderson, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and co-author of Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment, published by Oxford University Press says that in people with Mild Cognitive Impairment and memory loss, “we see shrinkage of key brain areas important for memory; the hippocampus and other areas around it in the medial temporal lobes.”



    From the Washington Post

    Ditch the GPS. It”s ruining your brain.

    June 5


    M.R. O”Connor is a journalist who writes about science, technology and ethics, and is the author, most recently, of “Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World.”

    It has become the most natural thing to do: get in the car, type a destination into a smartphone, and let an algorithm using GPS data show the way. Personal GPS-equipped devices entered the mass market in only the past 15 or so years, but hundreds of millions of people now rarely travel without them. These gadgets are extremely powerful, allowing people to know their location at all times, to explore unknown places and to avoid getting lost.

    But they also affect perception and judgment. When people are told which way to turn, it relieves them of the need to create their own routes and remember them. They pay less attention to their surroundings. And neuroscientists can now see that brain behavior changes when people rely on turn-by-turn directions.

    In a study published in Nature Communications in 2017, researchers asked subjects to navigate a virtual simulation of London”s Soho neighborhood and monitored their brain activity, specifically the hippocampus, which is integral to spatial navigation. Those who were guided by directions showed less activity in this part of the brain than participants who navigated without the device. “The hippocampus makes an internal map of the environment and this map becomes active only when you are engaged in navigating and not using GPS,” Amir-Homayoun Javadi, one of the study”s authors, told me.

    The hippocampus is crucial to many aspects of daily life. It allows us to orient in space and know where we are by creating cognitive maps. It also allows us to recall events from the past, what is known as episodic memory. And, remarkably, it is the part of the brain that neuroscientists believe gives us the ability to imagine ourselves in the future.

    Studies have long shown the hippocampus is highly susceptible to experience. (London”s taxi drivers famously have greater gray-matter volume in the hippocampus as a consequence of memorizing the city”s labyrinthine streets.) Meanwhile, atrophy in that part of the brain is linked to devastating conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer”s disease. Stress and depression have been shown to dampen neurogenesis “” the growth of new neurons “” in the hippocampal circuit.

    What isn”t known is the effect of GPS use on hippocampal function when employed daily over long periods of time. Javadi said the conclusions he draws from recent studies is that “when people use tools such as GPS, they tend to engage less with navigation. Therefore, brain area responsible for navigation is less used, and consequently their brain areas involved in navigation tend to shrink.”..SNIP

    Read the full article here


    From the New York Times

    Forget Self-Driving Cars. Bring Back the Stick Shift.

    Technology meant to save us from distraction is making us less attentive.

    By Vatsal G. Thakkar

    Dr. Thakkar is a psychiatrist.


    I was backing my wife”s car out of our driveway when I realized I wasn”t watching the backup camera, nor was I looking out of the rear window. I was only listening for those “audible proximity alerts” “” the high-pitched beeps that my car emits as I approach an object while in reverse. The problem was that my wife”s car, an older model, doesn”t offer such beeps. I had become so reliant on this technology that I had stopped paying attention, a problem with potentially dangerous consequences. Backup cameras, mandatory on all new cars as of last year, are intended to prevent accidents. Between 2008 and 2011, the percentage of new cars sold with backup cameras doubled, but the backup fatality rate declined by less than a third while backup injuries dropped only 8 percent.

    Perhaps one reason is, as a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put it, “Many drivers are not aware of the limitations” of the technology. The report also found that one in five drivers were just like me “” they had become so reliant on the backup aids that they had experienced a collision or near miss while driving other vehicles.

    The fact that our brains so easily overdelegate this task to technology makes me worry about the tech industry”s aspirations “” the fully autonomous everything. Could technology designed to save us from our lapses in attention actually make us even less attentive?…SNIP

    Read the full article here


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