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Can talking about technology make you smarter?

You can debate whether technology makes us smarter or just gives us more data to process. But apparently, talking about technology could actually improve the human brain.

New findings released by archaeologists at Lund University in Sweden indicate that developing or even communicating about new technologies has led to developments in the way we think and behave as a species.

They discovered that, although homo sapiens have lived on the planet for about 200,000 years, it was only about 100,000 years ago that advanced tool-making technology, for crafting things such as spearheads, came about.

In order to reach that plateau, the study says, increased social interaction had to occur, and over generations, the actual makeup of our brains altered. So, in essence, people getting together, planning and talking about technology had a positive impact on the physical structure of our brains — that is, talking about it made us naturally smarter.

And each generation was more adapted to the new technology than the last and, hence, smarter still.

Evidence of this exists today. Anyone who has ever witnessed a preteen teaching his or her grandparents how to get online to check their e-mail or even program their digital video recorder will tell you that the new generation tends to be more tech-savvy than the one before it.

Some could argue that it is simply that younger generations are exposed to technology at an earlier age, thus making them more practiced. And although that might be true to a certain extent, these new findings seem to indicate that there is also a biological predilection for younger generations to be smarter than older ones.

Of course, any live experiment to prove this would no doubt involve raising control subject children in isolation and periodically introducing technology to them to see what they do with it. And that would probably get the torch-and-pitchfork crowd chasing after the scientist in charge of said experiment.

But if anyone does decide to run such an experiment, it would be an ideal environment to also run my long-term cell phone exposure effects experiment. Wait...torches...pitchforks...on second thought, forget I said anything.

So in light of these new findings, the staff here at GCN will continue doing what we have done for the past 29 years: talk about technology and contribute to ultimately making the human species smarter.

You are welcome.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

Reader Comments

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Allen

Metalino, Boychik,

Hi. I enjoyed both your comments. The age "of the point-and-click IT administrator" does scare me. Several years ago my university dropped assembler from the computer science degree. To me knowing the "why" behind the "what" is fading. Not because its complicated. Google, bing, twitter or wikipedia a question gets an answer. Sadly its still an answer of what not always why.
Mealin even Cro-Magnon could paint answers 35,000 years ago but still needed experience or the why it worked. Unkth: "Ug, painting say spear best invention. Five hits kill bear" Hwakth: "Don't believe all you read. Spear only work in chest or mouth. Eye too small. Paw does nothing. Same for backside. Remember the pile of your brother Shnith we found in the woods. Shnith did not know how or why to use spear. Spear more than point-and-chuck device" Here thinking about what happens and why does exercise the brain more than using the same actions over and over again.
As for not thinking - ask someone with a cell phone what their friends or spouse phone number is? They may answer "Why? I just point and click. The phone dials it"

Boychik, sigh, I hear you. TV replaces book. Reality TV replaces documentaries (original reality TV). Pop culture helps people watch life more than experience it. Its hard to think outside the box when the box is soo big, comfy and popular. What else does one need? Built to cradle us, be easy to use. Only the PS/2, Droid, internet games are a challenge. Google trends graphs people shopping for bathing suits, chocolate and Paris Hilton more than news, information or education. Source: http://www.google.com/trends

Greg's article showed our advancing due to technology. Brain adapting from instinctual creatures to group based nomads at the mercy of nature to modern humans. Though the technology changes at faster and faster rates we as humans have not. We relate to older German stories of Hanzel and Gretel, English stories on Shakespear, Chines books like "The art of war", Greek stories of Zeus and Apollo. People may find live on Match.com or support groups on "Experience Project" but the need for love, understanding, joy and information stays the same. We all want to make our mark: be it blog or cave paintings.

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Boychik

No hate mail from me. But perhaps you have found a potent arguement against the Singularity. In the US anyway, the collective organization of the octomom mentality is collectively organized in a political struggle against the entrepreneurs that made it possible for them to survive and octupely overpopulate. As the "smarter" entrepreneurs are extinguished through this new form of 'natural selection' they will become more easily identifiable and subjected to extermination in the public 'education' system until the initellectual gene pool is adjusted back down to that of 100,000 years ago.

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Matalino

There is a significant amount credence in what Allen said. New technology in of itself does not make us any smarter and in many instances, it does the exact opposite. Technological devices are nothing more than tools, the advantage you get depends on how you use them. For many people, these devices have taken the place of thinking for themselves. Our brains are muscles that need to be exercised on a regular basis just to maintain the intelligence you currently have and even more to increase it. In order to create any meaningful increase in intelligence, you would at some level need to understand the technology you are talking about. With the advent of the point-and-click IT administrator, I believe the number of IT professionals that truly understand what is happening behind the point-and-click is declining.

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Allen

Though we are using the same basic hardware(brain) and wetware (speech, instinct, memory, forecasting, etc) improvement may have hit a dead end. --
Why? Before 1800's it was survival of the fittest. Medicine was basic. Social support consisted of charity and orphanages. Nature could still clean the gene pool. Nature selected survivors based on adaptation and change. -
Now everyone can live and reproduce regardless of traits. 100 years ago my bad eyesight and my wife's cancer history would have done away with us. Today we have those traits down to our two boys. Cleaning the "gene" pool sounds barbaric. Instead of prosperity allowing for larger families, social support like "octo-mom"
Computer techie or not we all have the same chance of survival. With technology of Droids, twitter, spread sheets, word processors, new OS, email, cloud computing, mp3 available to all - there is little specialization anymore to increase one's survival or reproduction.
I expect hate mail for these comments as the facts are not pleasing. All I ask is to prove them wrong and/or show a better way.

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