Sunday, September 22, 2013

Susan Greenfield - The Internet and "Mind-Change"

In the video below, which I discovered at IEET (Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology), Oxford University's Professor of pharmacology Susan Greenfield talks about how the internet is changing our brains/minds. Specifically, she believes the ubiquity of the internet is rewiring our "frontal cortex - the area of the brain responsible for cognitive analysis and abstract thought."

Here is an outline of what she believes in this area, from her own site:

What impact are technologies such as computer games, the Internet and social media having on the brain? Is Mind Change the new Climate Change?

Thirty years ago, the term ‘Climate Change’ meant little to most people. Today, it is widely understood as the umbrella term encompassing a wide variety of environmental issues such as carbon sequestration, alternative energy sources, or water use. Some feel that we’re doomed, others that the issues are exaggerated. Many believe that science can still help.

Susan Greenfield suggests there could be an unprecedented feature unique to the 21st Century that, like Climate Change, covers a diverse range of questions and invites controversy and differing views as to how to dealt with it. This time it relates to how future generations will think and feel: ‘Mind Change’.

Technology and the brain

Susan is fascinated as to how screen technologies such as computer games, the Internet and social media may be changing the human brain, both for good and bad. Humans occupy more ecological niches than any other species on the planet because of the superlative ability of our brains, to adapt to their environment.

As the 21st Century delivers a vast range of new technologies that are transforming our environment in unprecedented ways, it follows that the human brain, and thus our minds, could also be undergoing unprecedented changes.

The future of the mind

Today’s screen technologies create environments that could alter how we process information, the degree to which we take risks, how we socialise and empathise with others and even, how we view our own identity. This is the primary focus of Susan Greenfield’s work into the impact of modern screen technologies on the human brain.

Reading List

Click here, for references to various publications on social networking, gaming and surfing. Please note that this is a reference list that will enable you to survey the area and reach your own conclusions. It is not exhaustive but gives examples of current literature.
Susan Greenfield is the author of 2121 (2013) and ID: The Quest for Meaning in the 21st Century (2011), among other books.

So, then, here is the talk with the brief introduction offered by IEET.

The internet and ‘mind-change’

iq2 If Conference
Posted: Sep 20, 2013

Susan Greenfield

Professor Susan Greenfield argues that new digital technologies are rewiring the brain's frontal cortex - the area of the brain responsible for cognitive analysis and abstract thought. Greenfield suggests that 'mind change', brought on by increasing internet use and the popularity of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, will be the new climate change.

The inaugural If Conference, from debate forum Intelligence Squared, took place on November 25-26th November in London. More than 30 celebrated scientists, award winning architects, farsighted futurologists and other brilliant minds shed light on the excitements and the dangers of tomorrow's world. Visit for video and picture highlights and to sign up for information about If Conference 2012.

Here is a description of the whole iq2 "If Conference," which I found at Contagious Magazine.

London-based debating forum, Intelligence Squared, is hosting hosted the IQ2 If Conference, bringing together a range of entrepreneurs, inventors and thinkers on 25-26th November (2011) in London.
Speakers include author and game theorist Tom Chatfield, Oxford University's James Martin Professor of Science and Civilisation Steve Rayner, futurologist Ian Pearson, Oxford University's Professor of pharmacology Susan Greenfield, Contagious' co-founder and editorial director Paul Kemp-Robertson, design guru Stephen Bayley and living architecture expert Rachael Armstrong, amongst others.

Together with the other speakers, listed here, they will cover topics as diverse as architecture, design, cities, virtual worlds, space, economics, personal data, energy, sex, play, food and scarcity, and address why they will be important for everyone from CEOs and entrepreneurs to investors, designers, scientists and advertisers.

IQ2 founder, John Gordon, explains: 'Globalisation has not made the world flat - it has made it unbelievably complex. Disciplines interact in completely unexpected ways: biology with architecture, demographics with privacy law... Businesses and citizens need a multi-disciplinary approach to get a handle on all of this. That's why we decide to offer such a wide range of interconnected fields at iq2 If. It will allow delegates to broaden their minds and their networks - designers will benefit from meeting sociologists, advertisers will compare notes with lawyers and biologists will cross-fertilise with artists.'
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