David was recently contemplating what happens if you don’t exercise your ‘thinking muscles’, would they lose their strength?
Last week I was travelling through the roadworks where a new junction is being built between two of the UK’s busiest motorways (the M1 and the M6). It’s a huge construction project that has included the building of a six-lane 250 metre viaduct. There are also three local/A-roads that feed into the junction. As the project is going through its various phases, the route that drivers have to take can vary from week to week. This has caused a number of incidents and accidents when drivers haven’t noticed the change in road layout and, in an attempt to help, last week there was a huge illuminated sign which read, ‘The road has changed…ignore your Satnav and use the signs out here!’ Obviously (being a safe driver and law-abiding citizen), I couldn’t take a photograph of the sign but it did make me think about how people don’t think. Max Frisch, a Swiss playwright and novelist, once said, ‘Technology is the knack of arranging the world so we don’t have to experience it.’ He was referring to the automation and industrialisation of manual jobs and tasks.
The sign on the M6 made me think that we were in the midst of a new phase whereby the ‘knack’ is about arranging the world so that we don’t have to think about it. Satnav is a brilliant example because it’s such a brilliant tool. It thinks for us but in doing so, it means that we don’t have to. We’re not that far away from being able to ‘drive’ without having to look out of the car window…which is a good thing, right? Not if you ask the person who put the message on the sign on the M6, as there are four or five incidents that cause the road to be closed every time they change the layout slightly. One of the first things I remember from my studies of Neuro Linguistic Programming is the saying ‘the map is not the territory’ which is quite literally the case at the roadworks.
However, from a neuro perspective what skills will we lose the more we allow other things to do our thinking for us? And, what are we missing out on by moving around our world without seeing or thinking about it? I am ‘pro-gizmo’ in all aspects of my life but I’ve noticed, for example, that I’m not as good at figuring out routes as I used to be and I can’t find my way back from somewhere without turning my Satnav on for the return journey. In the past I would know my way back because I’d seen it on the way there. Is this the first sign of my ‘zombification’ as a driver, and where else might this be happening in my life? Not sure I still have the mental capacity to consider this but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!