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Are Smart Phones an IQ and Creativity Downgrade, with Anti-Social Bonus Points?

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Heroin is addictive. The iPhone and other smart phones maybe more so, in the active sense of having people so detached from the world that they get themselves killed while texting “I farted” and similar useful revelations. I’ve met people who need the next 'fix' so badly that they cannot take their eyes off the phone for more than 10 seconds, and that goes on without respite. It is stunningly scary (and sad) to observe it. Unable to have a human conversation, they strike me as worse off than heroin addicts. As a cyclist out on a gorgeous glorious day, I see other cyclists pulled over, texting, oblivious that life is passing them by. But each to his/her own.

The worst decision I ever made was to get my kids iPad/iPhone. Try taking away an iPhone from a teenager for one hour, and for extra credit, an entire day. Gold medal for a week. Kudos if you succeed without coming to blows, verbally or otherwise.

Personally, I think smart phones should be banned for anyone under 21 though in legal terms I would never support any such government mandate or anything like it, on principle. Still, developing brains are being stunted in many ways, and perhaps permanently, but Government Schools ensure that anyway.

To be sure, smart phones have very useful features—I use one and consider it essential. But having had a varied and stimulating woodsy upbringing, I feel pretty much immune to it—it’s a tool like a hammer and when there are no nails to be pounded, I forget about it, leaving it on DND most of the time. If you pound nails a lot, use the tool. Otherwise, put the thing away. It’s a nuisance most of the time due to robocalls to my do-not-call-listed phone number (I’m starting to support the idea of a mandatory 20 years in federal prison for robocallers). I mainly use it for (1) phone calls, (2) built-in flashlight, (3) alarm and timers, (4) handy grab shots to document stuff. Other than that, I despise the thing.

Am I “full of it”? I don’t think so—my views as stated above were already gelling 7 or 8 years ago and have only firmed up to granite. The hardest thing to see is the obvious, and a bubble is invisible to those inside it. MPG has long advised staying away from Facebook and its ilk, such things being psychological toxins for the most part, with little redeeming value in most all cases. You are the product, and the product is an addict.

The science

The Wall Street Journal in How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds summarizes the science of just how damaging smart phones are to intelligence and creativity, not to mention the anti-mindfulness and anti-social ramifications. When I had my recent concussion, I hardly used my phone at all except for maps (driving) and an occassional phone call. I wonder how damaging it is to recover from a concussion with a smart phone addiction hard-wired in?

The following brief excerpts ought to scare anyone, even if only half of it holds water. I believe based on personal observatioin for years that the research is only the tip of the iceberg and that there are many other even more serious issues that will emerge.

Emphasis added. Basically, using a smart phone pushes you towards being a mediocrity relative to your potential. Some particularly strong individuals will be minimally affected, but they are a tiny fraction of humanity. Augmented intelligence is an oxymoron until it really is so—and smart phones are not it. So... spend that $1200 on the next iPhone X as your investment in aspiring to be... a moron. It might in part explain the dismal detachment from reality of most students at American universities.

How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds

Research suggests that as the brain grows dependent on phone technology, the intellect weakens.

...when people’s phones beep or buzz while they’re in the middle of a challenging task, their focus wavers, and their work gets sloppier—whether they check the phone or not.

...when people hear their phone ring but are unable to answer it, their blood pressure spikes, their pulse quickens, and their problem-solving skills decline

...subjects whose phones were in view posted the worst scores, while those who left their phones in a different room did the best. The students who kept their phones in their pockets or bags came out in the middle. As the phone’s proximity increased, brainpower decreased.

...the more heavily students relied on their phones in their everyday lives, the greater the cognitive penalty they suffered.

...Just suppressing the desire to check our phone, which we do routinely and subconsciously throughout the day, can debilitate our thinking.

...students who didn’t bring their phones to the classroom scored a full letter-grade higher on a test of the material presented than those who brought their phones. It didn’t matter whether the students who had their phones used them or not: All of them scored equally poorly.

...when schools ban smartphones, students’ examination scores go up substantially, with the weakest students benefiting the most.

...Social skills and relationships seem to suffer as well. Because smartphones serve as constant reminders of all the friends we could be chatting with electronically, they pull at our minds when we’re talking with people in person, leaving our conversations shallower and less satisfying. [MPG: ersonally experienced with 'heroin'-like smart-phone addicts]

... “The mere presence of mobile phones,” the researchers reported in 2013 in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, “inhibited the development of interpersonal closeness and trust” and diminished “the extent to which individuals felt empathy and understanding from their partners.” The downsides were strongest when “a personally meaningful topic” was being discussed.

...Those who believed that the facts had been recorded in the computer demonstrated much weaker recall than those who assumed the facts wouldn’t be stored.

...when people call up information through their devices, they often end up suffering from delusions of intelligence. They feel as though “their own mental capacities” had generated the information, not their devices.

Now consider the dismal state of politics in this country—is it any wonder that intellectual and physical violence is the preferred method of discourse today?

I’d like a response from Tim Cook on the WSJ article. But what could it be other than bromides? Apple builds a product that is addictive; it is the business model.

Matt writes:

Oh boy, you really hit on a sore spot. My 4 kids are ages 9-15 and I regret the iPad/iPhone invading our home. My wife and I are planning on a 1 week total device fast for the kids next week and then going to a limited 4-5pm usage for the summer. I appreciate you confirming the dangers.

MPG: the best laid plans of mice and men often go iWry.

John G writes:

Couldn’t agree more with your essay on the addictive properties of smartphones. I see with my children, to the extent that their use patterns and propensities have caused my wife and I to create and implement some family policies for smartphone use, one of which is all devices must be turned off during family meals.

I also see it my colleagues. It’s become a major peeve of mine that when I’m in the midst of a conversation in a business setting and the colleague mindlessly and automatically is drawn to his/her phone in response to some notification. And, with no sense of social decorum or courtesy, begins (equally mindlessly) tapping away on the damn thing as if I’m not even there. What the hell? Of course it’s beyond rude and unprofessional. But it’s more than this; it’s deeply disturbing. Smart phones have further engendered a pervasive narcissism that runs deep within Western culture. Social media, instant dating sites, and immediate access to information are symptoms of a society about to implode.

MPG: or explode.

Jeff M writes:

I was reading your comments about use of smart phones and couldn’t agree more. As well, we are just beginning to understand the impacts of EMF on physiology from the continuous use of these devices as suggested by Jack Kruse and others in the medical community. This is especially important for children. Perhaps this would be an idea for an article on your site in the future.

MPG: we are surrounded by EMF (electromagnetic fields). I personally use a PEMF device for recovery from athletic workouts. Any household electronic device emits EMF as does the sun, or a car or a hair dryer (I wonder if electric cars are intense localized bubbles of EMF or are they shielded?) Go to high altitude or far north or take a plane flight, and you’ll get a ton more EMF, including some real nasties, like cosmic rays.

That said, it is the intensity that is of field and the unknowns of the frequency combined with that intensity. A cell phone held next to the ear has high intensity. Is it a coincidence that my left ear frequently suffers from fluid buildup, but that my right ear does not? Maybe, but I always hold the phone at my left ear, the same one with the problem and the right ear almost never has any issue. When it comes to children, rapidly growing tissue could be particularly sensitive to disruption. And yet such children generally do not hold the phone close to their ears. Still, I carry mine in my pocket and kids have it glued to their hands.

It’s a valid question, and remember that about 80 years ago, nuclear explosion radiation was pretty much harmless, so the soldiers were told. I am open to science, good science confirmed by multiple independent studies, but I would agree that prolonged exposure at very close range to the frequencies of a cell phone bears a good hard look. Trillions of dollars of business are arrayed against doing this science in depth; do we see Apple and Samsung making generous grants to check it out?

Still, some basic science not warranting any study should be understood first. Light, magnetism, any kind of radiation all obey the inverse square law. Make it 1000 times stronger, and it is still of little relevance—100 feet away it is 1/(100*100) = 10,000 (ten thousand) times weaker than 1 foot away. At 150 feet, it is 22,500 times weaker. So a field 1000 times stronger is only 10 times stronger at 100 feet, and 5 times stronger at 150 feet. Of course if a beam is tightly collimated (focused), this is another matter (think of a flashlight beam)—that is a concern. Indeed hike up to the top of Silver Peak near Bishop, CA and see the danger signs near the microwave towers, which use high power collimated beams. But a cell phone broadcasts in all directions AFAIK, and is not collimated.

Recently I measured the magnetic field of my PEMF device for vascular therapy using the iPhone app Toolbox Pro; among other things, it measures and graphs tesla (or gauss). If anyone needs a demonstration of how quickly the inverse square law applies, it’s compelling and simple enough, although cognitive dissonance would immediately set in immediately for millions of people , who fear cell phones, but have no concept of science or that their own body emits weak EMF.

So the profound ignorance of neighborhood do-gooders protesting cell phone towers nodes is idiotic at best (assuming it’s not a collimated beam going through a house or yard, highly dubious as it would defeat the goal)—having no knowledge or apparently no intellectural capability to understand the inverse square law, or that their own WiFi node or refrigerator or smart phone are far greater factors.

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