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Is technology hurting 'su'?

Many of us often type "facebok" into Google and rather than correcting the obvious mistake, let the search engine fix it. Monitoring Canadians' search habits would reveal that many, many more consistently type in "faceboo," "faebook" and "fcaebook", but they know Google will get the point.

Others can't be bothered to tap out even eight characters and have learned that entering just "face" or "fb" will get them exactly the link they're seeking.

Is that lazy or efficient? Should we be thanking Google's engineers for saving us a few seconds or lament that technology is dooming us to intellectual laziness?

It seems hardly anyone can remember phone numbers anymore since we starting storing them in our mobile phones.

Outside of schools and some workplaces, the practice of putting pen to paper is becoming increasingly rare. To many, scribbling with a pen feels quaint in today's digital age.

Who needs maps and a sense of direction with GPS technology, which is now nearly ubiquitous on smartphones and tablets, to guide the way?

And now voice recognition software is exploding in efficiency and popularity, raising the prospect that typing could eventually become another skill that's made redundant by convenient, task-relieving technology.

For Matthew Thomas, 33, it was the signing of a birthday card that made him consider just how infrequent old-fashioned manual tasks like handwriting have become in his typical routine.

"I realized how rarely I'm actually ever writing anything by hand and there was like a moment of panic where I felt a little scared because as I was writing I was having a hard time," Thomas said, noting that he felt the need to concentrate more and think about the act of writing compared to the automatic process of typing.

Noted futurist Ray Kurzweil agrees that the eventual loss of time-tested skills isn't a crisis for our species and represents part of our evolution.

"We are already a biological non-biological civilization that's augmented by the tools we created," said Kurzweil.

"There was controversy when I went to college about these new mobile devices you could carry around that would calculate arithmetic. There was controversy that kids wouldn't learn how to do arithmetic, and probably kids' arithmetic skills have fallen off. But they've put that effort now into better things, actually learning how to solve problems and create new knowledge.

"Yes, we've become dependent on technology and it's not going away."

The Canadian Press


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