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Is Smart Technology Making Us Dumb?

Smart technology grants us unprecedented, immediate access to knowledge and to each other—a ubiquitous and seamless presence in everyday life. But are smart tech devices guiding so much of our decision making that we are losing autonomy without even realizing it? We ask: is smart technology making us dumb?
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Overview

Smart technology grants us unprecedented, immediate access to knowledge and to each other—a ubiquitous and seamless presence in everyday life. But is there a downside to all of this connectivity? It’s been said that smart technology creates dependency on devices, narrows our world to echo chambers, and impairs cognitive skills through shortcuts and distraction. Are smart tech devices guiding so much of our decision making that we are losing autonomy without even realizing it? Or are these concerns an overstatement of the negative effects of high-tech consumption? Arguing for the motion is Nicholas Carr, author of "The Glass Cage: Automation and Us" and "The Shallows" with Andrew Keen, internet entrepreneur and author of "Tomorrows versus Yesterdays." Arguing against the motion is Genevieve Bell, anthropologist and VP at Intel Corporation with David Weinberger, a senior researcher at Berkman Klein Center and author of "Too Big to Know." John Donvan moderates. This conversation was taped on May 13, 2015.

FOR:
· From autopilot to apps, our lives have become increasingly automated. By depending on devices instead of actively engaging in work or leisure, our cognitive skills fade away.
· The internet - as the central medium by which we read, write, and learn - has fundamentally changed the wiring of our brains, diminishing out ability to think deeply and critically.
· Humans are not effective multitaskers, and digital media's constant distractions weaken our focus and scatter our attention.
· Instead of broadening our intellectual and sociocultural horizons, social media narrows our worlds to echo chambers.
· Tech giants know more about us than we know about ourselves. As they relate to us as mere consumers, as data, we lose our autonomy.

AGAINST:
· The digital revolution has reinvented knowledge, replacing traditional constraints with open, limitless networks. With the internet, humans can work together to infinitely scale knowledge.
· With 24/7, hyperconnected networks, knowledge has been democratized, giving increasing agency to everyone, everywhere.
· The efficient, seamless presence of digital technologies has freed us from menial tasks, thereby opening space in our minds for higher pursuits.
· Technology is what we make it, not vice versa. Far from mindless, passive consumers, people across the world are actively engaging with technology to better their lives and societies.

About

John Donvan (Host and Moderator): The moderator of Intelligence Squared U.S. debates since 2008, John Donvan is an author and correspondent for ABC News. He has served as ABC’s White House Correspondent, along with postings in Moscow, London, Jerusalem, and Amman. John is the coauthor of In a Different Key: The Story of Autism (Crown, 2016). In addition to premiering his first one-man show, “Lose the Kid,” in 2013 in Washington, D.C., John is a four-time Emmy Award winner and was a National Magazine Award finalist in 2010.

Andrew Keen, named as one of the "100 Most Connected Men" by GQ magazine, is amongst the world's best-known commentators on the digital revolution. He directed and wrote the documentary “How To Fix Democracy” and is the host of the popular podcast "Keen On Capitalism.” He has written five books, including the bestselling "How To Fix The Future," and his most recent book, "Tomorrows Versus Yesterdays: Conversations in Defense of the Future."

By This Expert

David Weinberger (Against the Motion) is a senior researcher at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, where he previously served as co-director of the Library Innovation Lab and led its Interoperability Initiative. He is currently a fellow at the Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy. His most recent book, Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room (2014), won two international Best Book of the Year awards. He has been published by Wired, Harvard Business Review, Scientific American, New York Times, and elsewhere. Additionally, Weinberger advised three U.S. presidential campaigns on Internet issues and was a Franklin Fellow at the U.S. State Department. Called a "marketing guru" by the Wall Street Journal, he was previously a high-tech marketing VP and strategic marketing consultant, a dot-com entrepreneur, and now serves on the advisory boards of several tech companies.

By This Expert

Genevieve Bell (Against the Motion) is an Intel Fellow and vice president of the Corporate Strategy Office at Intel Corporation. She leads a team of social scientists, interaction designers, human factors engineers and computer scientists focused on people's needs and desires to help shape new Intel products and technologies. An accomplished anthropologist, researcher, and author, she has been granted a number of patents for consumer electronics innovations. Bell is a highly regarded industry expert and frequent commentator on the intersection of culture and technology, featured in Wired, Forbes, Atlantic, Wall Street Journal and New York Times. She was recognized as one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business" by Fast Company, inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame, and honored as the 2013 Woman of Vision for Leadership by the Anita Borg Institute. With Paul Dourish, she authored Divining a Digital Future (2011).

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Nicholas Carr (For the Motion) writes about technology and culture. He is the author of the acclaimed new book The Glass Cage: Automation and Us (2014), which examines the personal and social consequences of our ever growing dependency on computers. His previous work, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (2011), was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a New York Times bestseller. A former columnist for the Guardian, Carr writes the popular blog Rough Type and has written for The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Wired, Nature, MIT Technology Review, and other periodicals. His essays, including "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and "The Great Forgetting," have been collected in several anthologies. Previously, Carr was executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, as well as a member of the Encyclopedia Britannica's editorial board of advisors and the steering board of the World Economic Forum's cloud computing project.

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Debate: Is Smart Technology is Making Us Dumb?

01: Debate: Is Smart Technology is Making Us Dumb?

Smart technology grants us unprecedented, immediate access to knowledge and to each other—a ubiquitous and seamless presence in everyday life. But are smart tech devices guiding so much of our decision making that we are losing autonomy without even realizing it? We ask: is smart technology making us dumb?

96 min