Does Technology Make us Dumber or Smarter? – Amazon Echo Show

I often wonder if technology is making us dumber people as a whole? For discussion today, we will use the new Amazon Echo Show. A handy device that lets Amazon listen in on your daily life, with the trade off to do some things for you.

My biggest fear is that overall, in our modern world that I won’t be able to pass onto my girls some of the manual things that made us think. If you take the TV remote as a simple example. When I was growing up there was no remote, in order to negotiate changing channels there was a couple of operations you needed to perform.

  1. Get up from where ever you were in the room and go to the TV.
UHF and VHF tv dials
Do you remember these old things?
  • Manually switch the “Dial” to whatever channel you wanted. There were two on some of the older TV’s one for UHF and another for VHF (for those who do not know it is like two different networks). You would select, VHF or UHF and then choose the channel knob. Not all channels worked .
  • Then, once the selector was in the correct position you might need to adjust the TV antenna. We had an electric one, that was mounted on the chimney. To turn the antenna, you would turn another dial (a different box on the TV) to tune in the channel. Hopefully you were able to remember using stickers or a marker where to turn the dial.
  • Today, it is much simpler – especially with cable. More or less you just point the remote from where you are sitting and change the channel. The hardest thing to know is to go through the guide and find a program you are interested in. Not much physical or mental work here (not that it was before either but you get my point).

    Now, when I think about my Apple iPhone and how it does many wonderful things for me. However it does not force me to remember things. On my old non-smart phone, it was a real pain to add a contact in the contact list. The end result was that not many people took the time to add contacts (maybe one or two primary numbers). Then there was the really crappy part, if you added contacts when you got a new phone there was no way to transfer them to the new device. Today, I can essentially text someone or and have them text me their contact info and I add them with a press of a virtual button. I used to memorize numbers, a great pastime I am afraid… simple things to keep your brain active.

    So while these gadgets make life “easier” my question is are they actually just making us dumber? Is this really progress? In some other examples you could say yes it helps us actually get smarter. Simply by following best practices that we may not know about. For example, everyone could agree that the best people in business are very structured. To fill out their day, they use a calendar to define what is important to work on. Typically these people in the past did much better then their colleges in job performance. Consistency always wins the race and ensures better outcomes in most situations. Today, a calendar is part of your daily work life… I plan months in the future using a calendar on what needs to be done where. In this example it can actually help our brains get smarter.

    If you sat back for a moment and thought what would you say? What do you think when you see the new tech? Do you think it might replace someones job? Would it eliminate needless tasks or replace things that help you see the entire picture? Depending on where you sit, management might say: “These robots don’t complain, stay out late at a club or bar, don’t lie about why an operation is not working – it just does its job.” We can do down this rabbit hole further – but I do fear not enough people are thinking about what tech is doing to us as a people. The constant pressure on Executives by shareholder looking to make more cash for the company. Some of these choices are not choices anymore. In the past you might say they were only thinking about their next Porsche however today the competition is leaping in some areas and you MUST respond in some fashion. Some CEO’s are starting to raise the alarm. For example Elon Musk CEO of TESLA has started to warn people about AI. We should tread very lightly as visions of Terminator dance in my head – we are going so fast not many are asking legitimate questions of WHY? At the end of the day WHY so fast to be first? That is working out really well in the media right? First to market on a story is the only important thing, not that it is accurate.

    So let’s look at this new tech from Amazon – the Echo Show a hands free device. You only need your voice to command the console on what to do next.

    • Echo Show works by using the Alexa platform. You can watch video flash briefings, Amazon Video content, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, browse and listen to Audible audiobooks, and more.
    • Make phone calls or make video calls to family and friends with an Echo Spot, Echo Show, or the Alexa App.
    • With Amazon Music or other services (like Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and more) ask to play a song, artist or genre, streaming over Wi-Fi and see lyrics on-screen.
    • Powerful, room-filling speakers with Dolby processing for crisp vocals and extended bass response. Play your music simultaneously across all Echo devices with multi-room music.

    • Connect to other devices: Ask Alexa to show you the front door or monitor the baby’s room with compatible cameras from Amazon and others. Turn on lights or the TV, set thermostats, control Amazon Video on Fire TV, and more with WeMo, Philips Hue, Sony, ecobee, and other compatible smart home devices.
    • With eight microphones, beamforming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo Show hears you from any direction—even while music is playing
    • Always getting smarter and adding new features, plus thousands of skills like Uber, Allrecipes

    Ask yourself do you like to be on the cutting edge? All the hype usually leads to reality it is an overpriced item that won’t actually make your life easier. Is it that hard to turn on a light switch? Maybe it is a task for sub-human being but really? When I see that kids coming out of collage today have over $150K in debt, live in their parents house (not our of choice but have to). How would they afford these items too? Or maybe to the better point is that the best place to put their money? I am afraid my kids may never memorize phone numbers if any at all. Just the process of memorization is important to keep your brain sharp. It may not be remembering phone number, turning on the TV and changing channels but a accumulation of these things. It is important. It appears this new tech and device can do many things (with the optional connected devices I am sure there will be more soon). It is a way to take your house made 40 years ago “modernize” it. To be honest it would take thousands of dollars to retrofit your home for automation.

    So, ask yourself does new tech like the Amazon Echo Show contribute to eroding the intelligence of our society and making us dumber? I don’t know, it is changing how we live our lives. Ever so slightly, bit by bit, drip by drip. You don’t have to stretch to far to make the case. Click the link below to check it out and then leave me a note below… do you think these device make us smarter or are they taking away our intelligence behind our backs without us watching?

    One thought on “Does Technology Make us Dumber or Smarter? – Amazon Echo Show

    1. All great thoughts here Joe… I would agree with many of them. I see the zombie kids roaming around not able to think on how to tie their shoes all the time. The thought process seems to be lost in the U.S. and Europe. You don’t see these issues or problems in Asia. I fear we have lost the ability to pass on our wisdom but other countries have not forgotten that…

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