I've been reading through Alan Jacob's "Attending to Technology: Theses for Disputation." It's an incredibly insightful piece on the current state of human-technology interaction. This particular section got me thinking again about how the technologies we adapt affect our brains and modes of processing information:
Everyone should sometimes write by hand, to recall what it’s like to have second thoughts before the first ones are completely recorded.
I have often in writing by hand realized, midway through inscribing a sentence, that it should not go in the direction I had thought it should go; or that it should not be written at all. Conversely, I have often typed in haste and repented of what I have typed at leisure. To write by hand is to revisit and refresh certain synaptic connections, links between mind and body. To shift from typing to handwriting to speaking is to be instructed in the relations among minds, bodies, and technologies. And if you can set aside your instincts for speed, writing by hand can be immensely enjoyable.
Interestingly enough, I recently listened to an episode of the NPR podcast "Ted Radio Hour" which discussed a similar thing:
It is interesting to think about how the technologies that we adapt affect the way we think. Every time we embrace a new program or tool for efficiency's sake, we lose some mental process or task that we used to hold closer to our selves.
Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man explores this concept in depth, as he looks at a number of key technological advances and and how they have extended our actions, thoughts, our very central nervous systems beyond our immediate selves.
“With the arrival of electric technology, man has extended, or set outside himself, a live model of the central nervous system itself. To the degree that this is so, it is a development that suggests a desperate suicidal autoamputation, as if the central nervous system could no longer depend on the physical organs to be protective buffers against the slings and arrows of outrageous mechanism.
Language does for intelligence what the wheel does for the feet and the body. It enables them to move from thing to thing with greater ease and speed and ever less involvement.
This should cause us to be thoughtful about the technologies that we do adopt, and cognizant of the mental and physical processes that they free us from.