TBC Explainer: Why do we trust technology?

Is technology becoming smarter, or are people becoming lazier? The Bridge Chronicle finds out.
TBC Explainer: Why do we trust technology?
How is our trust in technology affecting us?Image: The Bridge Chronicle

The invention of technology dates back to early 70s. Beginning from the invention of the computer, invented for the basic purpose of managing some technical work to today, a lot has changed.

Most of the credit for human dependence on technology can be traced back to the development of the internet of things. I still remember distinctly my first introduction to the internet. Google was not a thing back then. There was not much to do apart from some graphics and basic games. As a part of our curriculum in school, we also learned to use email. However, soon social media was developed and today we live in a world that is almost dictated by social media. Additionally, with the development of Artificial intelligence (AI), there is an increase in work dependency.

Too much trust?

According to a new study, humans rely on technology more when a task becomes too challenging. For the purpose of the study, the group of researchers studied 1,500 individuals evaluating photographs.

The individuals in the study were asked to count the number of people in a photograph. This team was also supplied with suggestions generated by a group and another by an algorithm.

But as the number of people in the photograph increased, the counting becomes more difficult. hence, people in the study group began resorting to the answers suggested by the algorithm. The researcher suggested, that people believed the algorithm rather than following the "wisdom of the crowd" or even counting manually.

"It seems like there's a bias towards leaning more heavily on algorithms as a task gets harder and that effect is stronger than the bias towards relying on advice from other people," said researcher Eric Bogert from the University of Georgia.

According to the researcher, people in the study group did count when the number was low on the photo but soon started depending on the computer as the numbers became complex.

Other instances

We now live in a world where technology is everywhere. Right from choosing the next song on the playlist to giving updates in the morning. Technology has helped automated our lives.

"Algorithms are able to do a huge number of tasks and the number of tasks that they are able to do is expanding practically every day," added the researcher.

People believe technology is honest

Another research conducted a Texas Tech University suggests that people also trust the data given by technology to be true and accurate.

This study reminds me of instances when at a grocery store if you pay Rs 500 for something that costs around Rs 170, you know the balance you are to receive Rs. 330. But yet, more often than not, we reconfirm on our calculators just to be sure.

What builds the trust?

According to a paper published by Patricia L. Hardré University of Oklahoma when it comes to technology, trust is essentially built on

"the degree to which people believe in the veracity or effectiveness of a tool or system to do what it was created for and is purported to do."

In today's time, when society extensively functions on the support of technology. For instance, alarms, playlists, the basis of all our work -- everything is technology. Additionally, with the invention of assistive technology, dependency on technology has increased. But the matter of trust comes in "when they fail, whether due to system glitches or to intentional breaches by others, we suffer a loss of trust."

What happens when the trust is lost?

In a lot of previous instances, people have lost faith in technology after the failure of the systems. Be it in a bank set up or server issues related to social media. A halt in technology or a failure of technology severely affects functioning.

But is such dependence on technology helpful?

Though we understand that depending on technology is a way of bettering or upgrading our life. We are in an age of over-dependence on technology. Technology is also a cause of increased anxiety and depression.

Imagine, if your smartwatch tells you that your heartbeat is low only because it is wasn't showing effective data. And sadly this could be true.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, only 11.4 per cent of patients were actually diagnosed with heart conditions that needed attention. The study was based on patients who visited a Mayo Clinic after receiving alarming heart rhythm results from their Apple Watch. The data was captured for six months after apple had made an FDA approved addition to their device.

Over addiction to technology or complete dependency on technology has often led to increased anxiety and even depression. Not to mention the mental exhaustion caused by social media.

What can we do to change this dependency?

Living with technology for the last almost two decades has taught mankind to regularly take time off technology and gadgets. We call it the detox. But how much is it possible and how often should we do it?

Here's what The Bridge Chronicle suggests you do

Keep an hour to yourself: Even though we are technology-free when we sleep, all our awake time is spent surrounded by technology. Especially with the work from home situation, taking time off technology becomes all the more important.

Read physical texts: Be it books, newspaper, magazine or anything that is not available digitally. Our eyes are often stressed by the amount of screentime, but physical reading doesn't exert an equal amount of pressure. There are also other benefits to physical reading such as an increase in concentration and cognitive development of the brain.

Find hobbies that let you disconnect: In the time of the pandemic, when everything has shifted to video calls, it is difficult to move away from technonlgy. But it is also the time we need to take time to disconnect. Find hobbies that bring you joy without being on your phone.

Is technology making us lazy?

Finally addressing one of the most debatable topics of the era around technology: Is technology making us lazy? or is technology dictating how we behave?

Sadly, there is no concrete answer to the same. Research into the topic suggests the technology and the tools that we develop are always transformative. Even if they help in bettering our lives, there is some level of hindrance that is caused to the human mind. Technology affects human memory and our ability to do simple tasks because of how effortlessly technology does it. But to limit its effects always remains under human control.

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