I’ve written before about Dr. Susan Greenfield’s war on technology. So has Dr. Ben Goldacre, so has Prof. Dorothy Bishop. So has Dr. Pete Etchells. Update: So has Neuroskeptic. Follow up on my post by Prof. Sophie Scott.

In fact, when last year I tweeted that I was attending Dr. Greenfield’s talk at the British Psychological Society, Dr. Ben Goldacre suggested to me (via twitter) to ask Dr. Greenfield why she has never published her theory. I tried, but I was not selected to ask a question, I couldn’t help but feel it was because (at my best guess) I was the only person in the room under the age of 40.

Dr. Greenfield’s theory is essentially that the internet, rather than bringing us closer, increasing our access to new information and aiding our ability to interact, is instead drawing us apart, wasting our time and ruining our minds. I didn’t make those things mutually exclusive, she did. She appears to be under the bizarre illusion that because one networks online, one therefore does not network in the real world. She has described her theory in such reputable outlets as the Daily Mail but has never published the idea academically.

Dr. Greenfield has just been on Channel 4 news arguing her theory. I discovered this after reading some choice quotes, ironically, on Twitter. The interview itself is pretty amusing.

Susan Greenfield Twitter Twitter Vs Dr. Susan Greenfield

Oh, and she’s also being completely rinsed trending on twitter, enjoy.




@ScientistMags, has incidentally also just written an excellent blog post on her use of social media as a scientist.












Clearly all of these people are completely cut off from the real world. Sod the research, case closed.

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  • Marcus Cato

    I would go further and ban computers in primary schools. The time spent on these useless apparati should be devoted to more reading writing arithmetic music literature etc, in other words real education. We already have the highest rate of illiteracy in Europe among schoolchildren, formerly in Western but now including Eastern Europe and if less time is spent in primary schools on a the basics of a proper education then we will continue to slide down the slope of an idiots’ society (we are not far off the US in that respect). Computer studies can easily be introduced at around the age of 15, time enough to prepare for the world of work as children learn so quickly. I suspect many teachers like ICT  as it is less work for them.

    • http://neurobonkers.com Neurobonkers

      If this were true then your claims would be substantiated by research evidence. Please read the articles I cite in my first sentence. The research suggests the complete and utter opposite.

      Consider the huge implications of what you are suggesting. Yes, I.T. is not effectively taught at the moment, most children know more than their I.T. teachers by age 15, but blocking children the access to tools that access all our worldly information before the age of 15 would prove to do the precise opposite of your stated goals.

      The worrying thing is that our Governments listen to people like yourself and Greenfield who preach without any kind of evidence whatsoever.

    • http://twitter.com/DrPeteEtchells Pete Etchells

      “The time spent on these useless apparati…”

      Come now, seriously? You’re seriously suggesting that computers are useless?

      “If less time is spent in primary schools on the basics of a proper education”

      You need to back this up with a bit of evidence. It’s not enough to say that there’s a correlation between increased computer usage and increasing illiteracy rates. Is there another, covarying factor involved? Most likely there are a number.

      “I suspect many teachers like ICT as it is less work for them.”

      A flippant statement, backed up by no evidence whatsoever. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but blindly making silly remarks like this isn’t going to help anyone.

  • Marcus Cato

    In reply to Peter Etchells and the others – useless apparati for primary school children, but obviously not in the world of work. The more time spent of ICT means less time on real education, so less time devoted to the latter means increasing risk of illiteracy. The statistics are there to be seen, UK in the international league tables.You should read what the CBI is saying to the govt about the standards of literacy among young people who are employed for the first time. So many have to be taught the basics of writing coherent sentences, etc. Many employers feel they are having to pay to re-educate youngsters. It may be flippant but one teacher has confirmed this to me,saying that some of her colleagues thought the same. So it’s not beyond the realms of possibility, surely,  that teachers in other schools have the same view ?
    Your correspondents keep asking for evidence of this, that and the other. Yes, at this stage it is difficult to provide concrete scientific evidence of the dangers that Prof Greenfield and others warn about, so perhaps in 20 years time when the zombies and cretins have torn themselves away from their screens in their dark rooms and emerge into the real world where they can be questioned about their “lives” we might have the evidence (good theme for a movie there, I feel).

    • http://neurobonkers.com Neurobonkers

      FYI: Hit the “reply” button and your reply will appear in-line with the conversation.

      This is a forum for evidence based discussion. Sorry, if you wish to make wild claims without backing them up you’re in the wrong place.If you wish to receive further replies you’re going to have to address the issues raised in the responses to your original point and back up your argument. 

      In the following points I am refering to the research discussed in my article: http://neurobonkers.com/2010/11/08/modern-technology-is-making-you-stupid-sorry-what/  

      1. Computers are not “useless”, the evidence is very much to the contrary. 
      2. There is no evidence that ” The more time spent of ICT means less time on real education” if you are going to make this type of claim you must provide evidence.
      3. Did you even read Dr. Etchell’s reply? Correlation does not equal causation.
      4. “it is difficult to provide concrete scientific evidence of the dangers that Prof Greenfield and others warn about”. We’re not asking at this stage for anything concrete, we’re simply requesting that Dr. Greenfield write down here idea and cite each of her respective claims against research evidence or established theory. This isn’t a witch hunt, it’s just impossible to have this debate on TV news channels and articles in the Daily Mail. The talk I witnessed had no relevant citations. The research she mentioned in her talk was in fact supportive of computers!

      The problem here is that Dr. Greenfield is in a prime position to write up her ideas academically and even conduct the research needed to support her argument. Instead she is writing a fiction book.

  • Marcus Cato

    I had several visitors here over the weekend and I showed them the comments on your website. Some are computer buffs, others are not. But they all made the same comment -why do these people all appear to feel threatened
    And finally, in response to the point about providing evidence in accordance with your rules – lovely evidence supplied by one correspondent “sod off Prof Green field”/ Very rational.

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