By Daniel Hwang
Technology is advancing at a rapid pace and is reshaping society at a rate that many of us are uncomfortable with. Netflix’s Black Mirror, which received an 8.9 rating out of 10 on IMDB, seemed to exemplify society’s fear of technological advances. A common fear that we have is that technology is replacing humanity. Laroya, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, made the argument that technology is allowing us to stop treating other humans as people and more like a screen name or e-mail address. (1) I argue that this is true; technology is replacing humanity, and therefore a fairly large market to maintain certain qualities that human’s need will start to emerge. To put it simply, as technology replaces humanity, people will demand a market for simply being human.
Collectively, Americans check their phones 8 billion times per day. Those who are 18-24 years old check their phones the most, at 74 checks per day, and those who are older tend to check their phone progressively less. 26% of those in the same 18-24 year old age group check their phones as the first thing they do when they wake up. (2) If you are asking why millennials are so glued to technology it is because they are addicted. Studies have shown that screen time releases dopamine, a highly addictive brain chemical. (3) Research done by Berridge and Robinson, published in the Brain Research Reviews, notes that humans are evolutionarily programmed to pursue pleasure or in many cases dopamine. Eating and sex both release dopamine, and are both essential to the survival. (4)
To summarize the facts stated previously, humans are literally addicted to their gadgets and evolution works to keep us glued to our screens. In the pursuit of that good feeling that comes from the released dopamine, humans are starting to replace our social interactions with the good we are addicted to. Of course it feels good, but as Dr. Rosen from California State University, Dominguez Hills, states there are certain biological needs of humans that technology is not taking care of. (5) Humans are naturally social creatures, and depend on connections with other humans in order to maintain mental stability. Evolution has once again made it such that humans quite literally go insane as isolation increases. Isolation increases feeling of depression, low self-worth, and anxiety. (6)
Dr. Rosen stated that although technology does provide a means of communications with other humans, it does not provide the same level of connection as face-to-face interactions provide. (5) As humans become more glued to their respective devices, the amount of face-to-face interactions we will decrease. Therefore, the amounts of social connections will start to decrease. This is what I believe will lead to a market for being human.
Human’s biological need for social interaction is not currently being met by technology. Depression among teens has increased from 8.7% to 11.3% between 2005 and 2014 (7), which is about the time period when technology started to rapidly advance. Of course the golden rule that correlation does not mean causation still applies, but I do not think it would be a far-fetched claim to say that technology had some hand in this increase. Now I believe technology will have a hand in its decrease.
The demand for a social connection is there. The possibilities to meet this demand seem endless. Imagine all the possibilities for apps that can help heighten current relationships or even create new relationships. It could be that parents tell their children to turn on a certain app at the dinner table, to increase their connection, instead of telling children to put their phones away. There are many other ways this human need could be met, and we ought to all look forward to its emergence.
Laroya, Gil. "Does Technology Replace Humanity?" The Huffington Post. February 03, 2010. Accessed March 07, 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gil-laroya/does-technology-replace-h_b_424073.html.
"Americans Check Their Phones 8 Billion Times Per Day." Time. Accessed March 07, 2017. http://time.com/4147614/smartphone-usage-us-2015/.
Kleinman, Zoe. "Are we addicted to technology?" BBC News. August 31, 2015. Accessed March 07, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-33976695.
Jr., Robert Evans Wilson, Samantha Smithstein Psy.D., Loretta G. Breuning Ph.D., and Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. "Why We're All Addicted to Texts, Twitter and Google." Psychology Today. Accessed March 07, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/why-were-all-addicted-texts-twitter-and-google.
Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images. "Is Technology Making People Less Sociable?" The Wall Street Journal. May 10, 2015. Accessed March 07, 2017. https://www.wsj.com/articles/is-technology-making-people-less-sociable-1431093491.
"Isolation." Good Therapy. Accessed March 07, 2017. http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/isolation.
Miller, Sara G. "Teen Depression on the Rise in US." LiveScience. November 16, 2016. Accessed March 07, 2017. http://www.livescience.com/56899-depression-increasing-teens-united-states.html.