Phys­i­ol­ogy and the ad­vent of the smart­phone

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From the Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette

In his 2010 book “I Live in the Fu­ture & Here’s How It Works,” the tech­nol­ogy writer Nick Bil­ton re­layed anec­dotes about early 19th-cen­tury anx­i­eties in Bri­tain at the dawn of train travel. It was thought that “peo­ple would as­phyx­i­ate if car­ried at speeds of more than 20 mph” and rep­utable sci­en­tists be­lieved that trav­el­ing at a cer­tain speed “could ac­tu­ally make our bones fall apart.” So far, that hasn’t hap­pened. While ad­just­ing to the fu­ture is often alarm­ing, as Bil­ton il­lus­trated, hu­mans find a way to cope.

A re­cent ar­ti­cle in the Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette drove that point home. Doc­tors have iden­ti­fied the con­di­tion of “text neck,” found most often in teenagers and young adults who stare down at their smart­phones for two to four hours a day. An or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon quoted in the ar­ti­cle ad­vises peo­ple to sim­ply “take a break from that thing.” If that proves un­re­al­is­tic, there’s a Pi­lates class geared for teenagers, which in­cludes a fo­cus on over­com­ing “text neck.” The in­struc­tor no­ticed that four girls in a re­cent class “could not drop their heads in a re­laxed po­si­tion dur­ing the ex­er­cises” — a clear sign of TN.

It is be­yond doubt that the pro­lif­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal de­vices is chang­ing the way peo­ple process in­for­ma­tion: smaller gulps from wider sources, less sus­tained at­ten­tion.

When you can pry your hands from your own smart­phone for a minute, go ahead and wring them over this de­cline in in­tel­lec­tual ca­pac­ity.

But the en­durance of the hu­man species is tes­ti­mony to its re­mark­able abil­ity to adapt.

And there’s one con­stant: Each gen­er­a­tion is hor­ri­fied by the deca­dence of the one fol­low­ing. Mike Lester, Wash­ing­ton Post Writers Group

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