Digitalization - What becomes of our brain
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Digitalization - What becomes of our brain?

The human brain is considered the strongest computer in the world. About 86 billion nerve cells are connected in the brain through countless synapses. The speed of thought is many times faster than the speed of light. However, with the ever-improving 'supercomputers' and the ever-accelerating digitization and completely new communication options, the brain is at a crossroad. Will it increasingly lose importance or will it adapt to the new circumstances? And what impact do new technologies have on the human psyche and social behavior?

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© ANDRITZ

Computers are changing the brain and affecting human behavior - at least neuroscientist Gary Small from the University of Los Angeles states this. According to his findings, due to the daily use of computer and other devices of the same kind, new neural networks are strengthened and old ones become weak. In the long term, this could result in a change in the brain and human behavior. Small even talks about an evolutionary process. In addition, he points out that many children and adolescents today show a weakening of the neural circuits. These are responsible for the interpersonal contacts. The reason for this is the amount of time they spend with a smartphone, console and their alike. It would be harder and harder for them to pay attention to just one thing since they almost always use several media in parallel.

60%

Your brain weighs about three pounds. Sixty percent of the dry weight is fat, making the brain the most fatty organ in the body.

Thanks to social media, we are now more connected than ever. If, for example, something highly unsensational like the falling of a sack of rice takes place in China, the Americans usually know it due to Facebook and Co within a few minutes. It seems like something important is happening all the time. Therefore, more and more people are increasingly trimmed to be constantly in a kind of alert, so as not to miss any news. Turning off in order to reflect the information is increasingly difficult. According to Small, this almost permanent multitasking could delay adequate development of the frontal cortex. Among other things, the cortex is responsible for the correct interpretation of other people's reactions and abstract thinking. But not everything about this development is negative. New media and consoles sharpen the sense of decision making. People become faster in processing more information. They become more efficient.

1,000

Each neuron can transmit 1,000 nerve impulses per second and make as many as tens of thousands of synaptic contacts with other neurons.

Will the human brain become obsolete?

If certain parts of the brain are no longer needed or used over a longer period of time, they can wither away. One can compare this to not using your feet for walking anymore, which will lead to the muscles becoming weaker and weaker without this daily training. Without taking advantage of the 'muscle' brain, it degrades too over time. All these negative effects of digitization are often referred to as the "paradox of progress".
According to some sources and tests, however, the brain does not become obsolete or useless, but rather adapts to new circumstances. For example, if a sentence is written on the computer that is knowingly stored, the brain may not remember the sentence, but knows exactly where it is stored and can recall this information. Further testing has shown that there is more room for remembering details as we do not have to remember everything. Meanwhile, work is already underway to build chips to be used in the brain. This so-called brain-computer interface favors a kind of interaction between the brain and technology. Devices can then be controlled directly via the brain. Also, data and information can, in turn, be introduced into the brain. Business psychologist Bertolt Meyer from the Chemnitz University of Technology is quoted as saying in a contribution by the Bavarian Radio: "[...] Yes, then we would have a fusion between human and technology at the level of consciousness." Especially in Silicon Valley, a lot of money is invested into this brain-computer interface. Prominent names like Elon Musk are already doing research in this area. He is particularly concerned with the speed with which information is transmitted. Thereby, mankind drags behind computer and internet connections today.

13 milliseconds

Your brain can process an image that your eyes have seen for as little as 13 milliseconds — less time than it takes for you to blink.

Not only physical, but also psychological problems appear with the rapid increase of the digitization in appearance. Due to the fact that it has almost become an unwritten law that we are always reachable, we also expect our communication partners to respond as quickly as we do. If the answer does not come right away, many people start thinking about it soon after. They either suspect their own wrongdoing or they form a bad judgment on the other person. People, especially children, and adolescents, who are increasingly growing up with computers and are accustomed to simply giving orders, could thereby be negatively influenced in their social behavior or their social learning. This could lead to changes in the brain or in thinking too.

50,000

There’s a reason the brain has been called a “random thought generator.” The average brain is believed to generate up to 50,000 thoughts per day.

Quo vadis, brain?

The increasing and ever-increasing digitization and so-called supercomputers cannot replace the human brain or render it useless, but these factors cause the brain to change. Since the beginning of humanity, our physique and psyche adapt to our surrounding environment that is constantly changing. In digitization and how we deal with it, it is as often in life and as the doctor, alchemist, astrologer, mystic and philosopher Paracelsus once used to say: "The dose makes the poison". In the end, we are and will remain human beings. Thus, the interpersonal aspect will probably remain a continuing constant in our life cycle and the human brain with its social ability probably cannot be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future.

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