How Computers Change the Way We Think

In “How Computers Change the Way We Think,” writer Sherry Turkle argues the human mind is being rewired by computers. While writing to an academic audience, Turkle’s tone is righteous, uneasy, and nostalgic. Her essay was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education on January 20, 2004. Turkle, a sociologist, explains how online simulations and software wire the brain to tackle problems in new ways. She expresses her main concern for her society is their right to privacy.

Turkle states avatars and online personas provide a safe place for young people to explore their identities. Internet versions of themselves make it more difficult for players to develop an authentic identity. Online games or online worlds give players a resemblance of real friendship. Meanwhile, online participants avoid the real work needed to have a true companion. Turkle explains relationships in games are surface level and hinder the players from revealing sincere feelings with their peers in real life. Turkle infers computer simulations have become a part of everyday life, spanning over all aspects of life. They provide an environment where all guidelines are clear to the users. Simulations typically put the dilemmas as good vs. evil, but the real world is extensively more complicated. Turkle observes players learning how to maneuver around an obstacle in a game or simulation, as opposed to attempting to understand the objective of the task. Turkle deduces that these online games change the way the human mind tackles obstacles.

Turkle proceeds to address software like PowerPoint and Word. PowerPoint shapes the way American culture is sharing ideas. The PowerPoint software encourages a monologue, as opposed to an open dialogue. Presentation tools teach the brain that how something looks is more crucial than the content itself. Another software Turkle is cautious of is Word. Turkle states programs like Word can turn a capable writer into a magnificent writer, but it can turn an inferior writer even poorer. Before Word, writers took the time to compose a thought-out notion. After Word came around, contemplating concepts in advanced has become a foreign concept for many of Turkle’s students and peers. Turkle suggests PowerPoint and Word’s effects on the mind offer little benefit to those in her society.

In this new age of technology, Turkle explains the right to privacy has become a greater issue. Young people view privacy as a privilege, not as one of their rights. Turkle believes inside a democracy, privacy should be a right. Turkle witnesses students giving up their private information on the internet with no precautions or second thoughts. Turkle sees young adults accept they are always under electronic surveillance.

Turkle is wistful of a time before, but she also displays some areas computers could be used to benefit her society. Turkle concludes software and simulations are shaping identities and thought processes. She expresses all privacy is lost, and all Americans are changed by computers.