If computers keep taking over our brainwork, soon we will be nothing more than fat sheep with fingers.
LABOUR-SAVING DEVICES have created a generation of lardballs, and now brainwork-saving devices threaten to cripple us mentally too. Technology has moved from making things possible to making things easy and that is as dangerous for our mental health as playing computer games and watching DVDs is for our physical health.
Take word processing. In the beginning, such software made it possible to create professional-looking documents without employing a typist. It was empowering and a huge advance. But word-processing software nowadays does not just enable, it takes over the job. Spelling errors are automatically corrected, grammatical mistakes are highlighted and the software even passes judgment on literary style.
The way software looks over our shoulders as we type, correcting and proofreading as we go, is making us lazy. Texts are littered with "theres" that should be "theirs," and "nots" that should be "nows" errors that spellcheckers still cannot spot. Sentences are padded with telescoping sub-clauses that have exactly the correct number of commas, but are incomprehensible.
Software is killing music, too. It is too easy to create music by sampling digital sounds and assembling mixes that sound good, even great, in the ambience of an Ibiza mega-club. Only in the computer age could DJs such as Fat Boy Slim be regarded as musicians.
Already we live in a world where we barely have to lift a finger. Lights turn on automatically, doors open as you approach, nowhere is more than a few yards from a car parking space. Now computers are doing the same thing for the mind. A mental obesity epidemic threatens.
Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006