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Digital Technology Dependence Is Weakening Minds

By Haya Qazi

Haya Qazi
Haya Qazi

EW DELHI, April 27: Most users agree that the benefits of technology far outweigh the negatives. As we have jumped on the bandwagon to progress spearheaded by Information and Communication Technology, the critical question is, how well are we prepared for disruptive changes?

Several studies show that the overuse of new-age gadgets has reduced the average attention span from 12 to 5 minutes.

Researchers from the universities of Oxford, Harvard, Western Australia, Manchester and King's College London have published a paper in the journal World Psychiatry, warning that increased use of the internet and "digital distractions" are leading to "decreased verbal intelligence" among children and "cognitive offloading" among adults.

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health discusses how internet usage has significantly reduced attention span and weakened memory.

Another research report published in the National Library of Medicine states that “Digital Dementia” will increase as, during smartphone use, the brain's right side, which is linked with concentration, mostly remains unused and weakens.

Not long ago, people could remember a dozen phone numbers by heart, navigate through a city, or do basic mental math. But the comfort and convenience of the digital world have diminished our need to indulge in mentally stimulating activities and therefore enfeebled the hippocampus (part of the brain responsible for learning and memory).

A large body of data produced over the years highlights that smartphone use has increased mental disorders and deteriorated physical health due to sedentary lifestyle.

From the vantage point of evolution, a group of researchers developed a 3D project showing that future humans may have second eyelids, hunched backs and necks, and text claw thumbs, thanks to smartphone dependence.

The human mind is weakening, and algorithms are becoming more intelligent and sophisticated daily. As Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning take over conventional jobs, the workforce may face the threat of joblessness and irrelevance.

According to Goldman Sachs economists, as many as 300 million full-time jobs
worldwide could be automated in some way by the newest wave of artificial intelligence that has spawned platforms like ChatGPT.

The 4 Cs of Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking are to be incorporated to prepare for the changing landscape of the future. It is essential more than ever to educate ourselves and focus on capacity-building as the future may require us to reinvent ourselves repeatedly.

Inordinate reliance on the digital will make tame humans whose major life decisions and choices will be dictated by the Big Data algorithms while losing life skills and interpersonal bonds. As such, it is crucial to step back and question the impact of digital dependence on our minds.

'Brought More FDI To India Than Any Other Startup': BJYU's CEO After Probe Agency Action

NEW DELHI, April 30: After financial crime-fighting agency Enforcement Directorate (ED) searched Byju's premises, the education platform's CEO Byju Raveendran wrote to employees saying the company brought more FDI to India than any other startup and that the firm fully complies with all applicable foreign exchange laws.

India's most valuable startup, Byju's was once valued at USD 22 billion and has attracted global investors such as General Atlantic, BlackRock and Sequoia Capital.

"As we are funded by 70+ impact investors who have satisfactorily done due diligence on our operations, including all FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) compliance, we are confident that the authorities will also come to the same conclusion," Raveendran said in the memo sent late on Saturday.

ED had on Saturday searched three premises in Bengaluru linked to the company over alleged foreign exchange law violations. Searches at 'Think & Learn Private Limited' (Byju's online learning platform) yielded "various incriminating documents and digital data was seized", ED had said.

The firm had received foreign direct investment of nearly ₹ 28,000 crore between 2011 and 2023, the agency had said, adding the firm remitted ₹ 9,754 crore to various foreign jurisdictions during the same period in the name of overseas direct investments.

In the internal memo, Raveendran said that the company had sent some money overseas to fund its international acquisitions.

"The recent visit by the ED is an enquiry under FEMA. The information requested by and furnished to the officers in connection with the FDI raised, overseas investments made, and cross-border transactions relating to marketing and branding activities by Byju's has previously been submitted by our authorized representatives," he wrote.

Byju's, he said, made a number of overseas acquisitions, investing ₹ 9,000 crore over the years as part of its growth strategy. "These acquisitions have been instrumental in expanding our reach and impact. In order to fund these acquisitions, we have remitted some of our funding overseas."

"I also want to highlight that Byju's has brought more FDI to India than any other Indian startup (Rs 28,000 crore), and as a result, we have been able to create job opportunities for more than 55,000 talented professionals," he said. "This makes us India's largest employer among startups." He went on to state that Byju's has taken all efforts to fully comply with all applicable foreign exchange laws.

"All our cross-border transactions have been duly vetted by both its professional advisors/counsel and advisors/counsel of the investment funds and other sophisticated counterparties," he said.

"Additionally, all such transactions are routed only through regular banking channels/the RBI's authorized dealer banks and the requisite documentation and statutory filings have been duly submitted." He said Byju's was fully cooperating with the authorities.

"As we are funded by 70+ impact investors who have satisfactorily done due diligence on our operations, including all FEMA compliance, we are confident that the authorities will also come to the same conclusion," he said. "Let us continue to focus on our goals and work together towards achieving our mission."

Sundar Pichai Warns 'AI Could Be Harmful If Deployed Wrongly', Calls For Its Regulation

Sunder PichaiNEW YORK, April 17: Needless to say, Artificial intelligence (AI) is shaping the future of humanity across nearly every industry and changing the world around us. Recently, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai expressed his concerns about artificial intelligence, saying that the technology can be "very harmful" if deployed wrongly.

In an interview with CBS's “60 Minutes”, Mr Pichai said the negative side of AI gave him restless nights and called for new regulations to govern AI. “It can be very harmful if deployed wrongly and we don't have all the answers there yet – and the technology is moving fast. So does that keep me up at night? Absolutely,” he said.

When asked if the society is prepared for what's coming, Pichai said, "You know, there are two ways I think about it. On one hand I feel, no, because you know, the pace at which we can think and adapt as societal institutions, compared to the pace at which the technology's evolving, there seems to be a mismatch.

On the other hand, compared to any other technology, I've seen more people worried about it earlier in its life cycle. So I feel optimistic. The number of people, you know, who have started worrying about the implications, and hence the conversations are starting in a serious way as well."

He further said that the technology will “impact every product across every company.” When asked what jobs would be disrupted, he said, "Knowledge workers'' such as writers, accountants, architects and, ironically, software engineers.

The Google CEO added that "society must quickly adapt with regulations for AI in the economy, laws to punish abuse, and treaties among nations to make AI safe for the world."

"And I think we have to be very thoughtful. And I think these are all things society needs to figure out as we move along. It's not for a company to decide," Pichai said.

Among the risks of generative AI that Pichai highlighted are so-called deepfake videos. “There have to be consequences for creating deepfake videos which cause harm to society."

Meanwhile, Google also recently launched an AI-powered chatbot, Bard, in response to ChatGPT. When asked by CBS journalist Scott Pelley why Google had released Bard publicly when he didn't fully understand how it worked, Pichai responded, “Let me put it this way. I don't think we fully understand how a human mind works either.”

He also admitted that Google did not fully understand how its AI technology produced certain responses.

Since its release last year, Microsoft-backed OpenAI's ChatGPT has prompted rivals to launch similar products, and companies to integrate it or similar technologies into their apps and products. Recently, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also shared a blog post, calling the "development of AI as the most important technological advance in decades."



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