Software for the finest computer – The Mind

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Posted by Tim Bryce on December 4, 2011

Recently I was invited to speak at our local high school as part of their “Great American Teach-in,” a program held here in Florida whereby guests are asked to speak to the students on a variety of subjects. One of my business related articles caught the attention of a local teacher and I was subsequently asked by the Business/IT Department to come in to make some remarks regarding business and technology. My talk was entitled “Our Changing Times” which discussed how technology affects us as human-beings. It was my argument that technology has an adverse effect on our mental acuity and productivity in this country. I conducted two consecutive classes of approximately 50 high school juniors each. Both sessions were interesting.

I began with a very brief description of my company and our methodologies for system design, data base design, enterprise engineering, and project management. Basically, I wanted to establish myself as a credible businessman who had extensive experience in the business and I.T. world. I then reviewed the cultural and technical changes I witnessed over the last 40 years. I even brought in some old mainframe magnetic tapes, printer wheels, and plastic templates used for flowcharting.

I then discussed how technology affects us as human beings. It is my contention that technology has conditioned us to be intolerant of inefficiencies and limitations thereby causing us to think faster, virtually, and to multitask. Think about it; we don’t like to wait in traffic, we want information at our fingertips, we expect to be able to listen to any song or watch any movie whenever we’re in the mood, we want to get in and out of hospitals, we want instant food, instant pictures, instant credit, instant money, instant everything. We drive faster and talk faster because we have been conditioned to do so.

To illustrate the point, I quoted some references; first, Dr. Mack R. Hicks, author of “The Digital Pandemic,” who demonstrated how technology alters the minds of impressionable youth. So much so, they begin to exhibit the same robotic mannerisms of the technology they use which is not conducive for grooming socialization skills. Hicks basically argued that technology is a genuine threat to the human spirit.

I next referenced the work of Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King’s College London University, who in 2005 was hired by Hewlett Packard to research the effect of technology in the workplace. During his study he found that workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than if they’d smoked marijuana. The IQ of those juggling messages and work fell by an average of 10 points – equivalent to missing a whole night’s sleep and more than double the four-point fall seen after smoking pot. The drop in IQ was even more significant in men.

These studies surprised the students. To stress the point further, I asked the students how they received their news. Out of 100 students, only 4 read a newspaper, a couple got it from an app on their iPhone and virtually none watched the evening news. Interestingly, a handful said they got their news from Jon Stewart on “Comedy Central.” Needless to say, I found it rather disturbing that students were out of touch with the world’s ever-changing events and considered Jon Stewart a credible source for unbiased journalism. Whereas adults are generally upset with politicians, the economy, jobs, military conflicts, etc., our young people are rather apathetic. I don’t believe parents even talk to them around the dinner table, which I found rather disturbing. Fortunately, this particular group of students will not be old enough to vote in the 2012 election; but if they did, I’m confident they could be easily swayed.

As students in the late 1960’s we obviously didn’t have all of the elegant technology as is available today, but we all knew what was going on in the world. Everyone read the daily newspaper and weekly news magazines, watched nightly news, listened to radio, and discussed it over lunch or with their parents. We all knew about the War (Viet Nam), the protests, major accidents and catastrophes, elections, the various assassinations, etc. If you didn’t stay on top of recent events, you were considered a dullard. Not so today. In fact, I got the uneasy feeling that you are an oddity if you follow the news today.

Wanting to understand their dependence on technology, I asked the High Schoolers if they could live without their smart phones. All except one said they believed they could manage. The one exception wouldn’t budge, even when I pushed her to defend her position. In her mind, the phone was her lifeline to her friends and social life. Without it, she was lost.

In the summary section of my presentation I admonished the students to develop a sense of history, not just American history, but history pertaining to their chosen career path. I told them this was needed so they wouldn’t commit the same mistakes we made and understand why we made certain decisions over the years. I challenged them to resist the temptation to go on “automatic,” to avoid repetition; avoid stagnation; to question the status quo, and simply THINK (an old IBM expression).

I don’t know how successful I was at getting my points across. Some students looked as apathetic as a lot of adult programmers I have taught over the years. The teachers seemed to appreciate my presentation and told me so. I also had a few students thank me for the presentation afterward, shook my hand, and asked a few questions. I don’t think I batted 1.000 with the kids that day, but if I got them to at least start thinking about things, then I believe I made a hit.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


  1. Tim Bryce said

    An O.B. of Valdosta, Georgia wrote…

    “I would like to share something that I have observed. I work at a place called the Perry Haunted Barn. I build animations and do mechanical repairs and innovations. It is not job as I am retired, however I go most days like a regular place of work. The owner have provide me with a section of the barn for a shop. Mostly I build model airplanes there but just before October we get cracking on the ‘Haunted’ part of the barn. There are many kids from 14 throught 30 that come out to work and act at this month long charity event. I am fortunate in getting to know most of them. I get to hear all the problems and lifes and loves and occasionally I am asked for advice. That is the background. Here is the observation: One day one of the teenagers (16) asked me how to learn how to concentrate, he said his attention span was very limited and he fouond it hard to concentrate for very long on almost anything. My advice was to find something he enjoyed and to block out all else to persure it. Later in the day I observed him playing a handheld video game and he was totally absorbed in it, eyes and hands moving fast and furious for over 30 minutes. When he finished , he was in the midst of sevearal other teens and I as I watched him, I observered that it took him quite a while to be able to talk in the group even though several of the group had talked to him. What I realized was that he was slowing down from playing the game to adjust to the tempo of the group that was animated but not quite as fast as the game he was playing. I realized then that the technology although it held his interest, also speed him up from the real world and it took a while for him to slow down enough to interact with it. Since then I have made sevearl observations of the others his age and older that are experiencing the same things. I thought it was interesting to find that out. Now that I know he can concentrate on something I started him building a model,which is a lot slower than the video game. His concentration is better and he adjust to the group quicker. Technology does change the lives of those who use it.”

    A J.P. of Ontario wrote…

    “I think the relationship between technology and our psychology has always been there. From the first time an ancient, evolving member of the genus Homo began to knock one rock against another to produce a paleolithic hand ax, important changes took place in every other aspect of culture, including assumptions about the nature of reality, language development, sexual relations and any number of norms, mores and values. The development of the internal combustion engine and the most common application, the motor car, changed the lives, perceptions and psychology of millions as compared to all previous generations. To a lesser extent, so did the steam engine and the railway in the time of their parents and grandparents. To what extent our biological nature may ultimately become so inextricably blended with our technology is yet for the future, but the concept of ‘bionic man’ is far less improbable than might once have been assumed even a decade ago. I watch CNN, and I cannot count the times I have yelled at the TV screen in terms of Wolf Blitzer, John King and Anderson Cooper, to take the three most obvious examples, saying, ‘Slow down! You talk like a bloody machine gun!’ I also will never forget the interview where Rick Sanchez asked a noted economist to explain why the US balance of trade was so unfavourable. The distinguished economist got two and a half sentences out of his mouth, when Sanchez interupted him with something like, ‘Okay, okay, but what’s the basic reason?’ The economist just looked at him. Not at all set back, Sanchez kept pressing for the ‘ten second solution,’ and the ‘one sentence explanation.’ No one takes the time to investigate anything in any detail, and the entire nation seems more and more to follow in the footsteps of George W. Bush with the attitude, ‘I don’t do subtle.'”

    A P.O. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wrote…

    “Great!!!!!!!!!!!! Schools are dropping script. I have run into kids who cannot sign their names.”

    An R.R. of Pembroke, Ontario wrote…

    “It is frightening to think of just how desensitized and unaware the next generation is becoming through our own efforts. Conditioned and indoctrinated response behaviour has been the funamental priority of western corporations for well over half a century, since observing it’s profound effects in the Japanese culture as part of it’s martial heritage and training.”

    An H.S. of Las Vegas, Nevada…

    “What a fantastic opportunity for you and the students. Too bad most of them didn’t get it. But that’s probably because it was spoken to them in person, and they don’t know how to process that kind of communication. When I was in High School I read the paper every morning with my mother. I would write letters to the editor which even got printed sometimes. I felt I had a voice. The social media today is drowning out voices, and ruining social/communication skills, as you stated ‘Hicks basically argued that technology is a genuine threat to the human spirit.’

    I was once preparing a presentation about about cell phone usage (long before the iPhone) with the intent of showing them in a positive light. As I searched for images to add to my PowerPoint slides, I realized almost all of them depicted groups of young people sitting together, but every one of them had a phone to their ear. Needless to say, I altered the viewpoint of my presentation. Great article once again, Tim!”

    A K.S. of Oklahoma wrote…

    “An amazing column Tim and one that brings to mind a sad reality. As these youth DO reach the age to vote and direct our world’s future, it does not look encouraging. I would say however, that IF we (those ‘in the know’ and ones with a bit of wisdom) can access these youth in a way in which they can relate (e.g., iPhone apps, eNew, downloads, etc), we may have a chance to get their attention and bring them into the solution.”

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “I hadn’t considered technology as the cause for rude or poorly socialized behavior, but I can see how it decreases our patience. It freaks me out when store clerks walk right in front of shoppers. I’m further annoyed by customer service reps who are so poorly trained that they will argue with customers. I thought it was poor parental teaching, but I can see the influence of technology on instant gratification.”


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