Automatic rifles, nuclear weapons, rockets: once they were invented, humanity became edgier, more paranoid, less tranquil. Less humane.
And there was no going back. You can't uninvent scientific developments, even when they are a retrograde step.
I feel the same disquiet about
Technology does more than assist us in our daily lives - it changes the way we think and behave. It alters consciousness. It eradicates manners. Little of this affects me personally, obviously.
Like one of the last grail knights, I belong to and uphold a lost world of fountain pens, Bakelite phones in red booths, printed books and paper, and had they not been abolished, I'd still send and receive telegrams.
But for the younger generation, those born in the 1990s and later, their brains have been warped by the sophisticated gadgetry available.
Such apps are "fast, on demand, just in time". The keyword is speed. News, financial information, sports results - people want to know about it as it unfolds, an "endless diet" of instant facts and figures.
The problem with such quickness, however, is that there is no time to mull over matters. Nothing is digested or reflected upon. People are only furnished with "surface-level information" - and the tragedy is that they have evolved a superficial psychology to match.
And with apps becoming a shortcut to knowledge, the consequences are spurious efficiency and endemic shallowness - sound bites, knee-jerk responses, "trivial tweaks or tweets".
Gardner and Davis see social networking sites, in particular, as thoroughly evil. There is already a crisis in what they call "identity formation".
In the old days, not more than a decade ago, people jostled with each other at work or in the home. Adolescents gradually got the edges knocked off them. Everyone spoke to each other, grimaced, smiled and modulated their tone of voice.
They had "face-to-face confrontations", ie conversations. There was genuine human interaction - which is how language skills develop.
No longer. Now, since "the demise of open, exploratory conversations", people instead invent themselves, in isolation, at the keypad. "You may end up with a stronger and more powerful identity, or you may succumb to a pre-packaged identity or to endless role diffusion."
In other words, the cyber-personality is the main or real one. The flesh-and-blood identity is relegated.
"Identities that bear little resemblance to their offline selves and lacking any repercussions in the physical world" take over - hence the nastiness and fantasy and epidemic of cyber-bullying. "People can unleash their meanness… Friend groups take sides and people join in" - and dozens of victims commit suicide.
In the past, when a boy and a girl broke up, for instance, they'd slink away and quietly go about rebuilding their lives.
Today, the jilter torments the jilted by posting pictures on the net of what a whale of a time they are now having with hunks on a beach in
By existing in this sinister and panic-stricken present tense, youngsters hardly know about day-dreaming or using their imaginations.
Introspection is a thing of the past. Instead they feel they have to belong to this "single generalised consciousness", with everyone monitoring each other, transmitting (banal, boastful) messages and believing they are "connected instantly with the rest of the world" - when in point of fact they are sad, deluded loners.
People compulsively insisting upon this "constant virtual connection" with cyberspace, disseminating pictures of themselves boozing, travelling and partying, sharing moment upon moment of their "external parade of happiness", actually possess a rather "impoverished sense of self". They have little genuine self-knowledge.
They don't know what it means to be a private individual, and so are restless and unfulfilled. When all you do is keep busy online "packaging oneself for others", you are, according to this necessary book, "making it less likely that a fully realised and personally fulfilling sense of self" will be achieved.
As the authors argue, in an impersonal app world, originality and genius just can't flourish.
Youngsters are avoiding meeting each other if they can help it - thus the number of 18-year-olds with a driver's licence has fallen.
Furthermore, by being app-dependent rather than app-enabled, young people are prone to passivity and inertia, are averse to taking risks, can't speak out loud coherently or fluently and, needless to say, can't write or spell or construct grammatical sentences for toffee.
No one has table manners because eating together has gone, in favour of endless grabbed snacks.
Parents are to blame, giving babies cellphones and shoving them in front of screens instead of playing with them.
When a leading child psychologist (oh all right, Mrs Lewis) asked a mother why she never talked to her baby, the woman answered: "Well, he never talks to me." Crikey.
Yet, in a strange way, parents cling to their children by constantly monitoring them with texts and tweets - and so the children cling to childishness.
With mummy and daddy "micromanaging their children's lives", it is no mystery why no one learns to stand on their own two feet and won't leave home until they are 40.
This "constant connection" is damaging, especially if, paradoxically, "families spend more time interacting with their gadgets than with each other".
The authors ask what might life in an app world signal for the future of the species and the planet?
The answer is that we are fast evolving into a race of morons. So we must fight back, as my God I do, in
Only once have I tried to rely on an app. This was the other day when I was trying to find the venue for Griff Rhys Jones's 60th birthday party in the
Poking and prodding my phone, I was assured that what I held in my hands was a foolproof navigational aid, a device which would direct me from that position to my desired location.
Pig's bottom, it did. I was so late that Griff was celebrating his 70th.
My advice: chuck your apps in the gutter and look at the stars. They won't let you down. -
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