Is technology making us dumber? I think so. But more importantly, researchers think so.

Do you care? Well, you might after you read this because it might not only be making you dumber. It might also be killing you.

A group of researchers at Montreal’s McGill University, for instance, reported that exercising spatial memory and orientation in everyday life increases hippocampal gray matter. And not doing so has the opposite effect.

And what is hippocampal gray matter? Simply put, it’s the brain.

Thus it means that you should be mentally processing, with the use of your God-given brain, data about your whereabouts and location (orientation) on this planet, rather than relying on GPS and other technology for your every move and decision.

And what if you don’t exercise your spatial memory and gray matter? Well, then it becomes kind of a “use it or lose it” situation leading to all kinds of fun things like Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, depression and dementia.

That’s a fact, according to these researchers. Underuse of hippocampus gray matter can lead to cognitive impairment.

Now, for years I’ve told people about my concern for my 99-year-old father’s addiction to crossword puzzles. You see, I think it might be safe to say that no one has completed more crossword puzzles than he has over the past few decades. In fact, I think he might be a world record holder.

Plus, while doing so, he multitasks. In other words, he is also simultaneously watching TV, answering my mother’s questions and reading everything he can get his hands on.

And what is the result? He’s very current on local, regional and world affairs and in fact, he is a historical database because his brain is still zipping along like a well-oiled machine.

Now naturally when we think of cognitive impairment we tend to focus on the elderly. But the real focus should be on our kids.

You see, scientists who study childhood development understand that the opportunity to explore, play independently and self-locomote are essential requirements for cognitive maturation and what will spur on the vigor for development of memory and theory of the mind development.

Yet our children’s freedom of movement in the world today is increasingly being restricted by government-induced pandemic restrictions and a parenting generation that is ultra-focused on risk avoidance.

As M.R. O’Connor said in his book titled “Wayfinding,” for the smartphone generation, getting anywhere without relying on GPS is as irregular in everyday life as writing by hand.

Related to that is a real lack of knowledge of history. And why is that important? It’s important simply because it gives us a sense of where we are and our place in the world.

Tristan Gooley, who is the author of “The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs,” said that the disappearance of navigational traditions and their replacement with modern technology signifies a cultural and philosophical impoverishment.

So what are we to conclude? It is this: That finding our own way is an activity that helps us to realize that we are part of the world. And it requires us to take notice of and interact with our surroundings, and renews our love affair with exploration and freedom.

In other words, don’t be afraid to have to think.


Kevin Holten is a columnist and executive producer of “Special Cowboy Moments” on RFD-TV.


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