Debating Brain Gain by Prensky

 
Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
Tuesday, 24 November 2020, 4:37 PM
 

 

Hello

 

The book entitled Brain Gain (see here), written by Prensky (see here), is very interesting, claiming mostly that technology is extending our brains. Although the reading of the whole book is worth, for now you are being asked to read chapter 1, entitled 'the human mind: improved, extended, enhanced, amplified (and liberated) by technology', p. 17-42. 

 

After reading the chapter, post your comments here. You may take a look at previous responses, below.

  

Prof. Celso

 

__________________________________

 

STUDENT 1

I could say from what is in Chapater 1, that Prensky is, indeed, shallower than Carr. I hope he brings scientific support in the next chapters. Well, he promised to bring  more substantial discussions in Chapter 8.

What I feel is that, so far, Carr and Prensky are talking about different things. The enhancement  of mind proposed by Prensky is something else.

I particularly like the following passage: 

 “Yes, it is. Everything we do affects our minds. And, at the same time it affects our brains. It has always been thus.”

There's no way we remain the same, otherwise humans wouldn't have evolved. Birth is one example. Our brain matures with experiences from outside the uterus. Experience is a pre-condition for maturity (the narrow exit must be a joke!) (LOL).

 “But my belief is that if people, rather than resist or reject the technical changes that come at them, maintain a positive—though critical—attitude toward technology, and if people take positive, proactive steps to integrate technology with their minds and their lives, they will all be far better off.”

 That’s exactly the point. We don’t need to come to extremes, as Carr did. The wise step  is to make informed choices and knowing our needs and limits. If we can still control our actions, regardless of technology, we can benefit form its influences.

Sorry, no pages are provided in the copies.

Cheers,

 

STUDENT 2

Possibly because we are one of the first generations to have greater access to new technologies, many questions may come to the fore: is the use of technology in excess harmful to humans? Does the new generation, including children and teenagers, know how to use properly new technologies? Word has it that the uncontrolled use of cell phones and other technologies can cause to people similar effects to a user of illegal drugs. Is this assumption accurate?

I have always been questioned in my family for the fact that I use too frequently Internet, mobile and computer. The members of my family just do not understand how I can stay so long in front of the computer. At all times I try to explain, but they do not understand that I make use of these technological resources for studying, preparing lessons, playing musical instruments, scheduling my appointments. This leads me to believe the so well-known conflict zone between the older and the younger generation, since two decades ago we did not have these resources at our disposal.

The text states that the use of current technology has enabled new forms of interaction between humans and new devices / machines. In the aim of describing the relationship that is established between technology and thought / mind of the human being, the text provides numerous explanations on the functioning of the brain. The author postulates that despite knowing very little of what the brain is capable, our brain structure can greatly improve aspects due to the use of new technologies.

The text highlights some wonders that the brain can provide, for example, using emotion and rationality, so much more developed than our ancestors. The author defends the idea that people have become better in many respects due to the advent of new technologies. One example is that people can understand their prejudices and demystify them. In addition, people can "accurately and rapidly find and compare old and new thoughts and ideas that they couldn’t find in the past" (p.2). Nonetheless, I was surprised with the limitations that the brain has, for instance, to keep information in short-term memory. It is a fact that humans are presently exposed to a huge amount of information, much more than in previous generations and immemorial times. I think this indicates that our brain capacity can increase, other areas of the brain can be activated and perhaps we can store and retrieve more information.

I see that one of the limitations that is more related to our field, as we are researchers, teachers and we are dealing with the public, is the human brain need to be educated guessing and the necessity of verification to attain knowledge. Yet, I suggest that countless factors are involved in that. Our brain needs constant checking to verify the evidences of reality: there are cultural factors that guide this hypothesis too. By way of illustration, from the sixteenth century on, with the emergence of the Cartesian method, it was necessary to prove the experiments with a view to separating the parts to get to the whole: the systematization of knowledge. If the reality in the Middle Ages was prominently explicated by divine laws and before the classical Greek period by various gods and heroes, Modernity brought another way of explaining the world. I believe that all these modifications towards the structure of the society allowed the development of brain.

And if we did not recognize us as part of the human race within, let us say, two hundred years? As a matter of fact, these things scare me!

 

STUDENT 3

Hi

"And if we did not recognize us as part of the human race within, let us say, two hundred years? As a matter of fact, these things scare me!"

As I was reading the section in which Prensky refers to the limitations of the human brain only to make his point that the human brain and technology are complementary - technology provides to the brain the efficacy and accuracy of information (with speed) and the brain completes it with emotion and judgment - , I wondered what we, humans, will be like in the not so far away future, though I would not dare estimate a number (200 years) like you did. Will we become like those cyborgs that we see in many science fiction movies? I hope not! But if technology's aid to human brain is regarded in radical ways, the very concept of "human being" will change. And that is indeed scary!

But I really liked the reading. The author uses informal, plain language which makes it very easy to follow his thoughts. As I read I could almost see him lecturing in front of me. Nevertheless, in my view, there is a negative aspect in this way of delivering one's message. The author's speech gets to be so informal and/or businesslike (sounding like he is advertising a new line product) that his audience/readers might find it difficult to take him seriously, especially when the topic is already controversial. At least that is how I felt, even though I agree with many of his ideas, in particular those related to technology to improve 21st century education.

As a matter of curiosity, I found it funny when he says 

"Despite our well-deserved place at the top of the pyramid of creatures, the limits of man’s capabilities are many. We are born helpless. Our bodies can tolerate, without assistance from clothes and shelter, a pretty narrow range of conditions. Disease can ravage and kill us, often suddenly. Our physical attributes are often less capable than those of other animals" (p. 7-8).

This is off-topic, but Dr Ellis Silver wrote a book "Humans are not from Earth" in December 2013, in which he relies on human physiology to argue that we are not from this planet, but rather, were sent here by "aliens" (for lack of a better word) from another planet some thousands of years ago. He presents "seventeen factors which suggest we are not from Earth", among which stands out the already proven premise that our body is fit for a 25 hour day instead of the Earth's day which is only 24. Another argument he uses is the sunlight, which he claims "hurts our eyes" and even "kills us", unlike what it does to the other animals. I'll just quote one passage on this:

"Lizards (...) can sunbathe for as long as they like - and many of them do. But if we did it for as long as they do, we'd almost certainly die. We can just about get away with it for a week or two each year on the beach (if we use enough sunscreen). But day after day in the sun? Forget it. You may just as well lie on the freeway and wait for a bus to hit you. At least your death will be more pleasant"

I have not read the book yet, only reviews on it. But I'm curious about reading it. Not that I believe in aliens. After all, they have never told me anything so that I can believe.

 

STUDENT 4

When I started reading this text I was really excited and agreeing strongly with the author, mainly when he mentions "today’s technology is changing your mind—and all of our minds—for the better." (p.1). Undoubtedly, modern technology improves our daily lives, and Prensky exemplifies that a lot, which is very illustrative (but got tiresome after some while). With our tablets, cellphones, computers and technological capabilities, we are able to extend our minds, heighten our cognitive capacity, increase our thinking powers and improve our thought process and concentration.

On the section "Our Brain’s and Minds’ Strengths (and Weaknesses)", Prensky mentions several limitations that human brains have and also explains them, bringing questions that were not answered, althought the answer expected by him might be positive - yes, it would be brain gain if we could handle more,  overcome limitations, get better at predicting, and so on. It became clear to me that the author was bringing facts to illustrate that we do need technology in fact, it is extremely useful for us - it might be time to outsource some of our brains limitations, including memory, storage, accuracy, complexity and prediction, to a technological source. 

 

STUDENT 5

Prensky convinced me that technology can be seen as an extension of the human brain. I agree with him that technology helps extending our memory, for example. The fact that he raised eleven human's mind limitations and explained them helped him making his point very straight-foward. If our brains do have limits that will possibly not change, why not taking advantage of technology to support not only eduaction, but also our daily lives?

Of course there are disavantages regarding the use of technology, such as less face-to-face contact. But I do have to say that time has been shorter and shorter, and sometimes I am very thankful for at least being able to communicate with people through technology. It is better than nothing.

When it comes to learning, technology might disguise students from learning. If we depend on technology for memorizing things, maybe we will need our computers to learn for us. In regard to that, teachers can show students potential tools for learning, but it is up to them to decide what they will take from that.

  

Picture of Tatiana Köerich Rondon (202000714)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Tatiana Köerich Rondon (202000714) - Monday, 1 February 2021, 6:46 PM
 

Reading the first pages of the chapter entitled “The Human Mind: Improved, Extended, Enhanced, Amplified (and Liberated) by Technology”, the researcher in me encountered the first problem in the author’s argument. Prensky claims that people are becoming better because of modern technology; that our minds are somehow improving due to this interaction with the digital world. The problem here is the generalization he makes when he says that everyone is going through this process. It is well-known that, when conducting scientific research, we should avoid making generalizations. Why? Because different conditions may lead to various outcomes.

It is easy to see why we cannot make that assertion. First, not everyone has access to modern technology. Second, if people do have access to the digital world, being willing to use it is not enough as Prensky states. Some of us need to be taught how to use the technological tools that are available. The author says that we can do many things, such as making more accurate predictions, creating things that are more similar to what we had imagined, etc. However, we can only do those things if we know that these tools exist and learn how to manage them. For instance, it is not as easy as it seems to differentiate what are good sources of information and what sources should not be trusted. If it were, we would not be suffering from the existence of fake news.

Of course, being open to technology can help people understand and integrate technology into their lives. However, I believe that there are some personal characteristics that may enable one to deal with technological changes better than others. My guess is that people who are more flexible, in general, might deal better with changes in technology throughout their lives. In the same way, just as with anything else, there are those people who do not make appropriate use of technology and will let one negative experience blur their judgment, as Prensky mentions. Not to go into much detail (after all we will still have to write about this chapter in our first assignment) I believe that the kind of change technology brings about is just like any other, sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst. As a society, we are certainly getting ahead in many areas, but we cannot say that, literally, everyone is changing for the better due to technology.

Picture of Marcella Lorenzato Barontini (202004434)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Marcella Lorenzato Barontini (202004434) - Thursday, 4 February 2021, 1:36 PM
 

Everything in life has its price. Prensky perspective shows that, although there are troubles related to the great advance of technology, they are not worrying enough to make people believe that technology is a threat to our own ability to develop as rational beings. Of course, people shouldn’t expect that all those facilities allowed by new gadgets and machines would come without any sort of consequence. In my perspective, the gravity that each person relies on the consequences is what brings so much controversy.

While Prensky claims that technology allows people to become better thinkers by giving them opportunities to select what is good and useful to what is not, some may allege that not everybody is qualified to do this task, nor able to identify the truth among so much “fake news”. Whereas the author says that people are “overemphasizing” the problems related to technological changes, some people are being scared off by headings such as “New computers could delete thoughts without your knowledge, experts warn” (The Independent - April 26th, 2017). I can easily visualize Prensky rolling his eyes to this, and it indeed sounds too drastic. But still, as the author himself pointed out, the essence of his work is about “perspective” and mine, while reading his arguments, is that he has an inclination to underrate people’s concerns about technology and its influences in our lives – more specifically, our brains. 

“But there are a great many benefits that technology offers that depend heavily on our attitude toward that technology and our willingness to accept and use it.” (Brain Gain). Yet, the limits between in which extent it is beneficial to our lives to which is too much (unnecessary outsourcing) is still unclear.

Picture of Daniele Perezin Mizuta (202004424)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Daniele Perezin Mizuta (202004424) - Thursday, 4 February 2021, 1:36 PM
 

In this first chapter of “Brain Gain”, Prensky presents an enthusiastic and persuasive perspective on the benefits of technology. Even though he does acknowledge its downsides, these are not explained in the initial chapter, which tends to influence the reader to perceive mainly its positive results.

Personally, I would say that viewing technology from an exclusively (or even almost exclusively) positive perspective would be too limited and generalized. We cannot dismiss scientific evidence on health-related issues that are associated with technology use. However, I assume Prensky’s intention with this article is not to deny any of this data (I would expect him to mention some of it later on), but to focus on the gains humans can obtain from interacting with technology in order to make us more willing to change and accept the new. As he affirms: My belief is that if people, rather than resist or reject the technical changes that come at them, maintain a positive—though critical—attitude toward technology, and if people take positive, proactive steps to integrate technology with their minds and their lives, they will all be far better off.

In this sense, I questioned myself while reading: to which extent is my reluctance to accept new technological advances preventing students from having a more up-to-date classroom practice? Am I too focused on the “negative impact”, which may even be smaller than the gain?

One example to illustrate this is the concept of “cognitive prosthetics”: Prensky defines this concept as an “extension of our mind’s capabilities”. Practically speaking, it could be pictured as a chip implanted in our brains or something similar. I have always instinctively rejected such ideas, with fear of somehow losing our natural capacity to perform cognitive tasks. But what if, as Prensky affirms, such new resources could expand our capabilities potentially while providing minor or even no negative downsides? Wouldn’t most of us consider adopting cognitive prosthetics in a similar way we adopted the cell phone? (Black Mirror series episode “The entire history of you” provides an interesting illustration and reflection on this topic).

Picture of Mauricio de Bortolli Lattmann (202004435)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Mauricio de Bortolli Lattmann (202004435) - Tuesday, 16 February 2021, 12:25 PM
 

Thank you Daniele for the Black Mirror suggestion. I will for sure watch it later. ;)

Picture of Thaisy da Silva Martins (202001387)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Thaisy da Silva Martins (202001387) - Thursday, 4 February 2021, 7:58 PM
 

I think the author brings a way too posivite view about technology. He mentions briefly some negative aspects but highlights that he doesn't pay much attention to them. Although that is an interesting perspective, considering (as he mentions) that most people in the area focus on the negative part of technology, it felt too much for me. For instance, he fails to consider that not everybody has access to such quantity of technological devices; his sentence "even in remote villages in India and Africa" does not really mean that all citizens from these places have access to it, and it is quite general and oversimplified. Prensky's approach made me think of our current situation - the pandemic. Suddenly everyone needed a computer and internet access to work and study, as well as to talk to other people outside their homes. Which also brought to light that indeed many people do not have these resources. I agree with the author in the sense that technology aggregates and provides brain gain, but I also think that evolving such devices and tools for the same amount of people that can afford it, doesn't really mean that society is evolving as a whole, but evolving and aggregating for a small percentage of the world. 

Picture of Flávia Roberta Felippi Rucki (201905682)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Flávia Roberta Felippi Rucki (201905682) - Friday, 5 February 2021, 7:36 PM
 

In the book “Brain Gain", chapter 1: The Human Mind, Prensky poses his argument that technology is changing our minds and  enhancing our thinking. The author points out weaknesses and strengths regarding human mind and technology, highlighting that they are complementary. He suggests that the more technology is present in our life, the more attached to our minds it gets, in a symbiotic relation.   In this sense, Prensky argues  that human mind can outsource some of its functions to technology, and this is, definitely, a huge gain to our brains. He closes this chapter on technology and brain gain by saying : “I do not see people getting dumber (including young people). I see them changing”. At this point, I wonder what is this idea of smart or dumb that the author is referring to. And more, what are the scientific findings that ground this reasoning? About changing, to what extend is this for better?  Maybe in the next chapters, Prensky provides more information…        

Besides, from where I stand, technology enhances and facilitates communication, yet, I believe that Prensky goes too far when he states that humans can become better thinkers because of technology. From what I have seen of social media and the influence of technology in our social relations, I do not believe humans got so much “brain gain” just because of technology use.  In fact, from my experience as a teacher and as a teenager mother, I tend to disagree with this point. Instead, I think we are under pressure and stressed with huge amounts of information and demands to our brains. I may be under the influence of Carr’s ideas, but I believe that, after all, what we may have gained is brain manipulation and control. 

Another point that called my attention refers to Prensky quotation from the American author David Brin: “ Technology is the most recently evolved part of the brain”. Here I question myself: are humans more evolved or more automated?  Is technology so deeply rooted in our brains?

Finally, I really liked our colleague’s comments on the idea of "cognitive prosthetics" that Prensky brings out in this chapter. I guess that our cell phones are already our cognitive prosthesis. We would benefit from this technology if we weren’t held as addicted users; that would be a brain gain!!

By the way, I’m going to see the Black Mirror episode Daniele mentioned in her post. It seems interesting...

Picture of Janaina Fernanda de Almeida (202001525)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Janaina Fernanda de Almeida (202001525) - Friday, 5 February 2021, 10:30 PM
 

Prensky provides a very engaging reading that, despite having quite controversial arguments, it is a worthwhile text to reflect on how technology becomes indispensable once we get used to it. The author is so certain about his view that technology is way more beneficial than harmful for our cognitive abilities that he puts great effort into convincing the reader. My impressions, however, varied a lot through the text. At some moments, I found the author’s arguments very interesting and thoughtful, as when argued that people are not getting dumber but they are rather changing. This idea appeals to me a lot, as well as the claim that technology may result in brain improvement due to constant changes. As a consequence, people have to adapt themselves concurrently, not only to make the best use of new tools but also to consider how new tools may facilitate daily routine. Besides, there is an intelligence behind the decision of using or not technology: if it does not show clear advantages, we are more reluctant in adopting it.  

On the other hand, as some of you have already mentioned, it is not possible to generalize the assumption that everybody has the same benefits when it comes to technology (or in any other aspect). First, it is not equally affordable, and there are differences in culture, habits, and personal interests, to mention a few. Therefore, these individual variables play a role in employing the available tools. Second, although the author also interestingly discusses brain limitations, I am not sure technology is the answer for improving all of the addressed restrictions. For example, concerning the limitation in separating emotional responses from rational conclusions, I wonder to what extent can technological devices lead us to overcome this emotional human side? Actually, depending on the circumstances, technology may result in more anxiety for reaching a decision, in place of solving the matter.

 

Picture of Fernanda da Costa Alves (202001313)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Fernanda da Costa Alves (202001313) - Monday, 8 February 2021, 1:04 PM
 

As I was reading the first chapter of “Brain Gain” I had some moments of “hmmm I am not sure I agree with what the author is saying here or with the comparisons he is trying to make”. I understand his argument and as many other students have mentioned in the forum: he certainly has a point. I agree with him when he says that technology is changing our brain because everything we do changes our brain. However, as others have already mentioned as well (including in the examples), I think he perhaps went too far. One of the examples that the author discusses on pages 36/37 is that we often rely on friends/family to remember things, for example, and he claims that this is the same as searching for an answer on the internet. I do not think that this comparison is fair because most of the time we do not actively rely on other people to remember things for us and we often do this with technology. I understand the many advantages that technology can provide for us, we are only able to have this very discussion thanks to technology. Nevertheless, I cannot stop thinking that this vast world that involves the possibilities of things we can do with technology is not accessible to everyone and as well mentioned by Tatiana, needs to be taught.

 

One simple example that came to my mind while I was reading Tatiana’s comment is the Estágio Obrigatório that I did with Thaisy and João in 2019. We used a lot of technology and it was great! We had an expectation that because they were born in this era and because their cellphone was almost part of their body (as also mentioned by the author), the students would not have problems learning new tools or using some websites. However, what we found in the classroom was far from what we expected (and we were dealing with teenagers at Colégio de Aplicação, people who have access to technology most of the time). They were not able to use very simple tools that we presented to them and had several difficulties doing some activities. João and Thaisy will remember that because we were surprised and discussed this issue at that time. This situation makes me think that: yes, we have access to technology and technology may enhance our abilities, but in general what normal people do with technology is very superficial (mostly social media) and I do not believe that this, specifically, is a brain gain.

Picture of João Luiz Coelho (202002413)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by João Luiz Coelho (202002413) - Monday, 8 February 2021, 1:52 PM
 

I have to say I agree with Marc Pensky on some points but disagree on others. There is, indeed, a mutualistic relationship between technologies and our brains. We are used to having tools for making our tasks easier and repetitive labor less exhausting and, with time, it becomes natural and automatic. As an example, recent technology revolutionized the way we take and keep photographs. We are taking more photos than ever, with a rhythm that keeps on growing, and the way we interact with them has changed. I have seen at least three people, including myself, pinching out on a printed picture to try to zoom in. That is as comic as is revealing of how our brain interacts with things. This is a behavior that absolutely would not be observed 20 years ago. We are so used to digital photos on touchscreens that we forget how much it has evolved. Hence, our brains get used to tools in a remarkable way.

However, some tools that are of great use tend to incentivize behaviors that are the opposite of brain gain. As cited by Penski, calculators and spell-checkers are usually seen as negative. The author tries to argue otherwise, as this would be a source of outsourcing, that would allow our brains to focus on other tasks and, hence, increase productivity. An example he gives is that we don’t have to memorize phone numbers anymore, as we have our digital contact list always available. Indeed, having to memorize endless phone numbers can burden our limited memory capacity. However, I believe that training our brain to make mental calculations and increased attention to word spelling is of great benefit to the health of our minds. For a person that trains mental arithmetic, which is something I argue that everyone should do, calculating tips and changes in their minds is faster than unlocking their phones and opening the calculator. How can this example of outsourcing be seen as brain gain?

There are other points of view, however, that worry me. As cleverly noted by Thaisy, new technologies are not available to most people. For me, this is the primary issue with the ever-developing technology industry. It does not serve the people directly. It does not have the drive to make new tools available universally. Its focus is on how can new technologies make more money. These new tools will be serving only a select portion of the population and, hence, these brain gains that the author argues so intensely will be one more step towards social inequality.

Picture of Natália Pinheiro (202001301)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Natália Pinheiro (202001301) - Tuesday, 9 February 2021, 1:38 PM
 

Based on yesterday's discussion I think most of us agree that Prensky's view is a little too optimistic. More than that, the main problem I had with the text was its abundance of broad generalizations. Borrowing Tatiana's words, my inner researcher also struggled with statements such as "As a result of technology, we are all becoming, at different speeds, better thinkers, and better, wiser people". First: who's we? Then, what's his operationalization of better and wiser? I acknowledge that the chapter is not an academic piece of writing, but even so, I found it dangerous to be so biased. Also, the (many) limitations that Prensky attributes to the human brain seemed rather superficial to me. Finally, since I'm currently reading David Marr, I wondered what would Prensky say about Marr's levels of analysis.

Picture of William Gottardi (202003499)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by William Gottardi (202003499) - Tuesday, 16 February 2021, 11:35 AM
 

Hello there!

Prensky is undoubtedly a very persuasive writer. He exposes really reasonable arguments on how technology has been enhancing human capabilities, and he ignores its side effects, conveniently.

First, the term technology is full of meaning, from a pencil to a calculator; from books to digital devices. Considering the latter, I understand the author has some biased points of view, mainly regarding addiction. A watch, for instance, doesn't flood you with constant notifications, bombarding you with dopamine. A smartphone does. In short, he sounds way too optimistic in most parts of the chapter as he shows his opinion and not much scientific evidence to support it, which can be really dangerous.

Besides that, I don't see the new technology as a monster or something to get rid of, even because it would be impossible to do such a thing. I understand that algorithms, machine learning, AI can do things that humans can't do. It is impossible to handle so much information without some technological tool to support us. Considering this, technology is helping us to reach places we could never reach without it. Furthermore, we should not blame the calculator if we cannot do simple math. The calculator is there to help us make things faster and more accurately. However, we can't rely only on the calculator, because we need to know why we are using the calculator for. The same happens with a dictionary, the internet, or social media.

All in all, I am in favor of using the technology, and I believe it allows us to do greater things, such as having online classes during a pandemic. However, I am scared of neglecting the side effects as well as seeing the technology as the panacea of all of our problems and limitations.

Picture of Mauricio de Bortolli Lattmann (202004435)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Mauricio de Bortolli Lattmann (202004435) - Tuesday, 16 February 2021, 12:21 PM
 

Hello everyone,

After reading Prensky's Brain Gain book we can clearly see how much of a technology enthusiast he actually is. Even though I could only read its first chapter, it seems to me a bit difficult to judge and analize the book as a whole. I really enjoyed the reading and I can say I actually agree on many points he makes, however, much of his claims, as already discussed in the previous comments, seem to be somehow too generalized.

Although his claims might be to broaden, I do agree with him in many aspects, such as when he claims that a great variety of technological benefits may come to us automatically, without us having to take many actions related to them; that they also might come in ways which we sometimes have no control over or that we are not even aware they exist. All these benefits technology might bring is completely related to our attitude towards technology and our willingness to embrace it or not. However, much of his allegations related to the downsides of technology seemed to me a bit vague, without much being said to prove his points of view. I do not know if in the next chapters more might be said about the actual negative aspects of technology in our lives but based on the first chapter it seems to me he is way too optimistic.

I do believe we actually are somehow connected to our cell phones and that we use them as gadgets to outsource many of our daily information. But it seemed to me a bit difficult to relate outsourcing to brain gain as he continuously states throughout the first chapter of his book without proving his claims in an efficient or clear way. I do not want to write too much since our first assignment is related to this book but I do think we should take this reading with a grain of salt.

  

Picture of Celso José de Lima Junior (202001592)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Celso José de Lima Junior (202001592) - Wednesday, 24 February 2021, 10:57 AM
 

After flipping through the pages once again, here are my thoughts on Marc Prensky’s book. The book is not a scholarly tone, rather Prensky is more a journalist than a scientist. Besides the sweeping statements, there are great points to the discussion.

In Brain Gain, Prensky claims that our brains may change positively based on the technology we use: “there are a great many benefits that technology offers that depend heavily on our attitude toward that technology and our willingness to accept and use it”. He contents and discusses the social impacts of technology, showing that we need to think with and through it. Different from Nicolas Carr, he rejects the negative press that technology received in the past years. For him, technology is not making us stupid or slowing down our reasoning, quite the contrary, it has been deepening human knowledge and creativity.

I agree with him that technology may offer pathways for thinking never before possible, and using digital technology has changed, and continues to change, our lives for the better. As he points out we just need to use technology smartly and to get smarter through technology.

Picture of Pierre Silva Machado (202004425)
Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Pierre Silva Machado (202004425) - Wednesday, 3 March 2021, 3:43 PM
 

As I had thought previously, the reading by Prensky made me feel even more certain that there is a great market behind technology. Although the author tries to convince us there is brain grain while using internet, electronic devices and gadgets, his analysis seems to be way too shallow. Regarding his thesis, I do not believe we have become better thinkers and wiser people: as a matter of fact, I strongly consider we are far way from that. To srtat with, we have never been so divided before and that is not bad at all. I think people tend to think reality is immediate, but this is only when things get started. We live in a world where 1% of the population is richer than the other 99%: is it ok? Besides that, prejudice, capital and fascism have shown their true colors, with a bunch of layers, including the help of a "natural force" called capitalism.

 

Said that, I think technology has put us apart not because it is evil, but due to the fact that we were not prepared to deal with it. If social interaction, face to face, was already a problem as we are different, diverse and unique, we can only imagine now when everybody is hidden behind the computer screen. Moreover, we are on the edge of a huge problem, as we have watched The Social Dilemma: people are being manipulated. If the intentions are not to make improvement available so that we have better lives, why are we still so devoted to technology? The answer may be found if we check numbers and behaviors. Numbers have revealed that psychological issues, such as depression and suicide, are increasing exponentially and fake news are spreading in high speed. 

 

However, as an optimistic (but not alienated and uncritical) person, I bet human beings are about to discover the real meaning of technology. So far, we have already been using that for our benefit as we apply all knowledge arisen from studies and researches about technology in order to help people. From pools for social causes, equipaments to make disabled people's lives better, use of internet to reach distant areas where education had never been to the advent of streaming, humanity is ahead of the system. The problem is: both the system and the market know how dangerous it is their own invention and that is why they have their own arrangements for us to be more and more confused. The bottom line is: either we take a step back and react or it will be too late. The future is coming faster than we think and it is up to our society to make things change. Never before has transformation been so urgent. Am I afraid? Of course. In fact, this subject scares a lot. However, I think it is universal the desire and need for transformation and the system itself has its flaws and weaknesses. 

 

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Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Rayla Rocha dos Santos (202001012) - Monday, 29 March 2021, 10:23 PM
 

The chapter “Brain gain” is an interesting theme in which the author tries to defend the use of technology in which I found very positive. No one can deny that our current society is surrounded by technology and that we do not live without it anymore. It has many benefits, but also, negative points. 

One of the main claims that Prensky presents is the argument that humans are getting wiser due to the use of technology. I would not affirm that, but I would affirm that humans have more access to information. What I may agree with Prensky is that humans can learn new things all the time, and we may process things faster, but still, it does not mean we are getting wiser. I claim that since people nowadays are defending things that are already well established, as “flat earthers” or people against the use of vaccines. These two examples are already well discussed, the earth is a globe and vaccines are necessary so we may prevent many diseases. 

Finally, I missed the use of citations and references concerning his arguments. He might have written a more general text to achieve more readers, but this general argument may turn his discussion weaker even though it is a very interesting chapter.

 

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Re: Debating Brain Gain by Prensky.
by Andreia Dalla Costa (201901088) - Tuesday, 6 April 2021, 4:18 PM
 

When considering the arguements brought by Prensky on the first chapter of his book,  Brain Gain, in that technology is changing our brains, much of what is said can be considered as true and part of the reality of most people in the world. I particularly consider that the things people can do with the aid of technology, mentioned on page 2 of the chapter, are very interesting if not amazing. And I also believe that if each and every person in the world was able to accomplish all the things on that list, their lives would be much easier. For instance, there would much less problems with people believing in fake news that circulate on the internet – which, unfortunately, seems to be exactly the opposite. That being said, we all know that having access to technology does not automatically imply that the person will be able to do all the things in the list proposed by Prensky, neither take advantage of all the possible benefits that technology can create.

Thus, reading and reflecting upon this chapter as an educator has made me ponder much of the positive aspects that he so passionately emphasizes. One aspect is the way he addresses the issue of addition to technology, as it if did not exist, especially when talking about children. There are a great number of studies that have been conducted in the last few years investigating the use of technology – and here I am referring to cellphones, tablets, and TV – by little kids and kids, and most of them point out that the excessive and uncontrolled use of screens can do more harm than good.