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Does Technology Make Us Less Human?


It is not unusual these days to see people eating together at restaurants, but not interacting with each other. Instead, they are looking down at their smartphones.

While some people fear what technology is doing to society and relationships, others say the ever-evolving technology is an improvement on life.

"One of the problems with technology is we often try to think about it is either monolithically good or bad and it's not. It's a tool," said Linda Burch of Common Sense Media, an organization that guides parents and children through the world of technology.

Technology is used more often in schools; some ponder if over reliance of technology could lesson human problem-solving skills, as well as creativity.

Technology is used more often in schools; some ponder if over reliance of technology could lesson human problem-solving skills, as well as creativity.

Benefit: enhances the world

From a tool that helps parents stay connected to the location of their children, to a mirror at a department store that can connect to friends, enhancing the shopping experience, one reason technology is a benefit said Intel's Bridget Karlin: a connected world is a richer world.

"We're at a time where technology is being valued not just for the device that it produces but for the experience it makes possible," Karlin said.

Benefit: more diverse relationships

The experience of meeting people has changed with the Internet. Whether it's on social media or a dating website, users are exposed to a much bigger group of people than was possible before.

Everything is a trade-off; according to research people's social skills in the past 30 years, all the ways that we know how to measure empathy, among college students, have decreased by 40 percent.

Everything is a trade-off; according to research people's social skills in the past 30 years, all the ways that we know how to measure empathy, among college students, have decreased by 40 percent.

That's another benefit of technology said Sam Yagan, vice chairman of Match Group and co-founder of the dating site, OKCupid.

"One in three marriages starts on line and I can tell you those marriages and those relationships end up being far more diverse than those that don't and I think that's good for the world."

Benefit: fosters creativity

A third reason technology is a benefit: an outlet for students that didn't exist a few decades ago.

"The ways that kids are using technology to express their creativity is unbelievable that's a place where I get very excited with young people," Burch said.

The excitement over the benefits of technology is also tempered with fear among many parents, said Burch.

"In our guts we are saying "OK, what is this doing to our kid's brains? What kind of child is going to develop out of this? Really and truly how are we going to navigate this world with the child who begins to use technology and respond at age two to four."

Con: limits social and other key skills

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, Sherry Turkle, pointed to research that gave evidence of what technology is doing to people's social skills.

Today, people have limitless information just a few clicks away.

Today, people have limitless information just a few clicks away.

"In the past 30 years, all the ways that we know how to measure empathy, among college students, have decreased by 40 percent."

Turrkle said empathy is learned and developed when people talk to each other in-person.She said technology also takes away other key behavioral skills.

"We are so used to the constant stimulation of always having the phone to go to, of constantly having stimulation, that we are losing this capacity for solitude and with it self-reflection [and] self-containment," said Turkle.

Even as the debate continues over the pros and cons of a connected world, technology continues to evolve, creating new discussions about how people, who are social by nature, should use the technology.

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