Does Innovation in Technology Make Us Dumber? [Poll]

We had a comment recently in one of our polls that really struck us. It suggested we should be called “Make Tech Dumber” and not “Make Tech Easier.” This really got us thinking. Is it the same thing? Is that good or bad? Does innovation in technology make us dumber?

Technology by pure definition has a purpose to make things easier for us. This is especially true when you look at Apple products. It seemed to be the whole design of Steve Jobs. Think of all the technology that makes things easier for us. Let’s just look at one. Where would we be today without the smartphone? It definitely makes our lives easier, but is it making us dumber as well? Look at what spellcheck has done to us. We don’t have to learn how to spell anymore. We have functions that will automatically fix it for us. We don’t have to remember how to drive anywhere anymore. We have Google Maps to guide us there. You don’t have to know much at all to use a computer now compared to using one twenty, thirty years ago. The list goes on and on and gets more and more technical.

Is it making us dumber? Or is it really making us as smart as our devices? Does innovation in technology make us dumber?

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.


  1. Technology may not be making us dumber in the IQ sense of the word but it is making certain of our skills atrophy. Because of GPS navigation fewer and fewer of us can read, let alone use a map to get around. If we are stuck in traffic or if a road is closed, unless GPS can suggest an alternate route, we are lost. If the electricity goes out, we don’t know how to cook without a microwave. etc. etc. etc.

    1. Indeed—I can no longer use an abacus—can you imagine—when I was a boy going to China Town in Los Angeles with my grandfather; I remember the Chinese merchants in white blood stained and soy sauce stained aprons arguing trying to prove their point to each other with an abacus.

      Calculators — boy has that made getting change a mystery. I never know if I am short changed or not.

      A GPS is a life saver in a city—where even a map may not help—I tip my cap to Thomas Bros. —

      After the initial frustration of no electricity—and your food is going to spoil in the fridge—as long as the beer is safe—there is nothing like laying down in the darkness and there is no EMF interference—and the quiet is like why did we lose this peace for what? To become lard asses consumed with EMF and electronic lights and noise? Of course I am giving away my age—but I also have a place in the “country” where at night people bring out their telescopes to look at the night skies.

      1. I have an app that lets me point my phone at the sky and tells me what stars I will find if I point my telescope in the same direction.

        I point the telescope, arrange myself so that I can sit back or lie down and still see through it, then switch the phone off (I mean really off – powered down). Ahh, peace…

    2. Once you couldn’t drive a car unless you knew how to adjust the fuel mix and timing as your speed changed. If the CPU blows in your current car, you are immobilised. You probably don’t know how to make your car work (it can work) without it. And why would you want to know?

      Maybe map-reading is just one of those things that has had its day, even though an older generation (mine) still value having the skill. Nobody laments the passing of the typewriter. Who even remembers them well enough to explain how the carriage-return key got its name, or the “broken arrow” for its symbol?

      Somebody once said “if you don’t like change, you are going to like being irrelevant even less”.

  2. You get from technology what you choose to. If you rely on it for everything and let the gps navigate you without think about the route it’s taking you and merely use it to automate daily tasks, etc., you’ll be worse off. However, technology also puts any information we want right at our reach. I find myself learning about things I may never would have. I’m able to talk with people from Japan to practice my language skills. I’ve learned about crafts and subjects I never would have known existed. I put the effort in, so I get a lot from it. Technology is my tool, not my brain.

  3. It only affects an x amount of people – those that are already lazy and stupid. They already want ‘tech’ to ‘do things *FOR* them. They couldn’t care less the hows or whys. Hence they use things like M$…they don’t *have* to ‘think’ or ‘do’ anything on their own.

  4. read Snake Oil by Clifford Stoll, the best-selling author of The Cuckoo’s Egg It was written many years ago and explains exactly what is happening

  5. Funny that all that write an answer doesn’t think we get dumber due to technology.

    Some points to think about however!

    My father was a teacher in the final classes of the basic school (to get us on one line: this school covers the first 6 to 9 years of your education) in that time the pocket calculator became popular. He noticed that people using this device ofter got worse in calculating by hard. Some kids could not do some simple maths like adding 2 figures with more than 2 digits without using this device.

    Another example is that due to Google Maps and GPS people do not know where they are anymore.
    Blindfold them and put them in a major city. Then ask them how to travel home and only give them the name of the city. A lot of people will not even know where the city geographically is located. they cannot point its location out on a world map

    So, Yes technology can make us dumber.

  6. I was dumb before I got the technology.

    I didn’t know where many other countries were, never mind cities. My spelling was atrocious, my math a joke, and so many other things I had no idea that I didn’t know.

    The spell checker has taught me to spell. I was either not going to fetch the dictionary off the shelf, or not write much, without a spell checker. Now I make less mistakes, and each time I do make one I can see what I should have written, so I am less likely to make the same mistake next time.
    I work out in my head the total price of my shopping before I get to the check-out. How come the fancy tills always seem to make mistakes in the stores favour? (You don’t do that? Either you are rich or… er.. hey, would you be interested in this second-hand car I have?)
    Whenever I hear of a place in the news I can look it up, see where it is, find out about the people there. I do own a couple of atlases but, like a dictionary, who would bother to get up to and fetch it?
    When you know the basic principles of cooking (you have to heat up the food to the right temperatures, etc.) you can figure out how to do that without a microwave. You may waste a little food while you learn, but if the power goes out more people will figure it out than will starve.
    Map-reading? Do you really want someone on the same road as you who is looking at a map whilst driving to some place they haven’t been before? Really?
    Tech helps me become smarter. Without it I was prepared to remain dumb.

    I think that assuming other people couldn’t do something just because they always choose an easier method, is dumb.

    1. “Do you really want someone on the same road as you who is looking at a map whilst driving to some place they haven’t been before?”
      Is that any worse than having drivers stare fixedly at their GPS screens, or read newspapers whilst driving, or animatedly carry on a phone conversation without holding to the wheel, or putting on makeup, or be texting or playing games on their smartphone, or doing dozens of other things they should not be doing while driving?

      1. No, I don’t think it is worse. I have nearly been run down by a driver who missed a stop light because he was talking on the phone. If I hadn’t jumped out of the way, I don’t think it would have hurt any more or less than if he had been reading a map.

        Some drivers can just listen to the GPS and only occasionally look at the screen.

        My question still stands: Do you really to share the road with someone reading a map?

        My point: tech is good for us.

  7. Technological innovation does not “make” us smarter or dumber…
    If you take the time to learn it, it can increase saleable skill sets, and so is never a dumb thing to do.
    It can’t make us dumber, though it can easily “allow” us to be lazy about learning the way to get the task done w/o the technology.
    If it’s an innovation, it is “new”, and therefore old, tried-and-true, “manual” methods must still be taught/learned at least until such time as the new tech is proven and readily available. And the training in the orignal manual method should still be made available even once the new tech has become ubiquitous. If only to save us when the power fails…

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