Technology Makes You Stupid

Labour saving devices save you physical effort, so unless you deliberately do something about it, labour saving devices cut down your physical exercise and make you unfit.

New research (via Slashdot and the Independent) shows that brain-saving devices cut down your brain exercise and make you stupid.

On the bright side, the research also shows that those who share my laziness are not condemned to remain stupid, because our brain can still develop.

Satellite navigation systems can stunt your brain, preventing it from developing, according to scientists. They have discovered that taxi drivers have actually grown more brain cells because of all the knowledge they keep in their heads.

When the scientists compared the brains of taxi drivers with those of other drivers, they found the cabbies had more grey matter in the area of the brain associated with memory.

They believe that this part of the brain, the mid-posterior hippocampus, is where black-cab drivers store a mental map of London, including up to 25,000 street names and the location of all the major tourist attractions.

The research is the first to show that the brains of adults can grow in response to specialist use. It has been known that areas of children’s brains can grow when they learn music or a language.

Link: Independent Online Edition > Health Medical.

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  1. Of course, there are other conditions that could be the cause of the enlarged mid-posterior hippocampus, such as the fact that taxi drivers tend to sit for long stretches (unlike bus drivers, who have to get up on a regular basis). Perhaps lack of exercise makes you smarter. Certainly we don’t equate body builders with big brains. It’s one of those biases of research that they’re unlikely to look into the possibility that exercise could be bad.
    Also, does having an enlarged whatchamadoodle make you smarter? Perhaps it reduces brain capacity for other stuff like ruminating. No disrespect to taxi drivers, but it’s not most people’s first choice of a career.
    Maybe too, when we use these newfangled electronic thingees, we make our brain more efficient, so it doesn’t need to get bigger.
    My final thought (I read this article in the Independent too and I’m highly dubious on many fronts): do the scientists think that cabbies in big cities are smarter than those in small towns? That seems to follow.
    But it seems pretty revolutionary that brain cells continue to grow. I thought they always used to say that they couldn’t grow.

  2. It’s always tough to tell whether there is anything to a medical or science story from a newspaper report. But it rings true to me, if only because of London taxi driver Fred Housego, 1980 winner of the impossibly difficult Mastermind quiz show after leaving school at 16 with a single O-level.
    And because I really want to believe that I’m not just doomed to get stupider from here on.

  3. I had never heard of that series, Intelligence. Sounds amazing. You should consider adding it to the ranking for best TV series ever on

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