Human Perceptual Changes in a Technological World – An Exploration
By Desiree L. DePriest, Purdue University Global
Watch your thoughts for they become words,watch your words for they become actions,watch your actions, for they become habits,watch your habits for they become your character,watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
Technology has become the primary tool in a world of information hunters and gatherers. The hunters are the macrocosm of corporations, political groups and social media that seek out your user habits for gain. The gatherers are the users who search and seek for a variety of reasons on the Internet. This digital normal is a way-of-life with little exploration into how the constant use of technology affects the kinesthetic activities or sensory perceptions of human beings.
Figure 1. A Complex Human Brain (image by Pixabay)
There are certain kinesthetic reactions to hardware and software technologies known by the hunters. It is known that changing televisions to slightly curved, rectangular shapes encompasses more of the human’s peripheral vision. Optometrists report a direct correlation between a Curved UHD TV and eye health. Curved HD TVs give more uniform viewing distance when the viewer’s eyes move from the center of the screen to the periphery. When it comes to creating curved TVs, curvature equals technology power (Orosa, 2014).
The research encompassing more peripheral vision began in the 1990s when gaming was on the rise. Computer graphics were too large for the old, square completely flat televisions. The human eye, although focusing on a small field of vision, still retained a hazy view of the peripheral region but made computer graphics less immersive, powerful and versatile (Varma, 1992). The intense pixilation of television and computer graphics create delta waves or electrical activity at a frequency around 1-8Hz, which is typical of sleep. EEG studies, which detect electrical activity in the brain, have found that the higher-functioning levels of the brain (gamma waves), used by the neocortex for analysis and reasoning, go offline when long periods of time are spent in front of the screen. The visual cortex is highly stimulated, neurons are still firing but the mind is not actually engaged. The vision is taking in an enormous amount of stimulus but not processing it. It is the reason our eyes feel glued to the screen, almost like a trance (Neal, 2016). The frequency in which the majority of humans engage in triggering this orienting response, the more the brain stays unfocused and may bring about false memories, reduce the ability to remember information, and seriously affect decision-making and memory performance.
Figure 2. Visual Perception Human Field of View (FOV) (by D3kc1s on Wikimedia Commons)
The previous studies did not research different wave effects based on the screen content as a possible component of stimulating alpha or gamma brain waves. However, Bayesian studies on surprising content attracting human attention have been conducted in neuroscience. Surprising content includes raucous, harsh, disagreeable or dissonant words to actions motions and colors. These studies found that the brains of people in different locations provided the same content, in the majority of cases, triggered a similar initial electrophysical cortex response to surprising content stimuli measuring an adaptation in visual, olfactory and auditory cortices, subcortical structures and retinal ganglion cells, and cochlear hair cells (Itti and Baldi, 2005). Neural response attenuates with repeated or prolonged exposure to an initially novel stimulus. Over time, the human brain adapts to the expected redundancies in an environment immersed in the repeated stimulus. The sensory cortex undergoes a form of neural linguistic programming. Neural linguistic programming, simply defined, is founded on the idea that people operate by internal “maps” of the world that they learn through sensory experiences. It operates through the conscious use of language to bring about changes in someone’s thoughts and behavior (Kandola, 2017). Technology engages the six senses of human perceptions; i.e. hearing, touch, sight, taste, smell and mind (Bailey, n.d.). Our perceptions of rhythm and mobility are integrated in technology also; through the use of audio/video app’s to cellphones and tablets. The use of these tools produces experiences in our minds, and habits in our behavior that arguably produce physical inertia along with the conveniences such as sitting in coffee shops, browsing an answer versus going to the library, to sending an eCard versus sending one via snail mail. There is also a possible sense modification from the anonymity and lack of accountability that comes from posting any point-of-view remotely.
Figure 3. Anatomy of the Human Ear (by Lars Chittka and Axel Brockmann, on Feb. 15, 2009)
A related area of concern when limiting the scope of activity or physical human contact through the use of technology alone is the increase of unstable internal, non-verbal dialogs within the user’s own brain. The effect of inflammatory information, from violent exchanges between users to hate-filled politics, are less likely to stimulate the healthy-solution-oriented part of the brain. Non-processed brain activity is repetitive without output; it is static, circular and redundant. Although not limited to persistent Internet use alone, an already fragile person may come to believe the alleged impending violence or hate details of a false memory implanted from a leader or social media propagated through analytic persuasion, and it can then affect them in their ability to function as normal in everyday life (Psychologist World. Com, n.d.). It can create a weaponization of mental illness which raises this the level of this dilemma to a moral issue. In the words attributed to Emerson (among others) above, brain activity does find an outlet, healthy or otherwise.
The argument that technology can damage healthy human sense perception, as seen in our current world, cannot be underestimated. As the mechanical agents of the Internet continue to advance tools to further larger consumption or political agendas, user confidence in the information received is currently not compromised because they are unaware. The intelligent algorithms, whose predictive intentions are numerous, are all designed to categorize so-called “preferences,” and then capitalize on them through persuading the user’s future access to information but they are not aware. Netflix uses a secret algorithm which is similar to the artificial bee algorithm which splits viewers up into more than two thousands taste groups. The group the user is placed in dictates the recommendations they are offered in the future by the company (Plummer, 2017). All browsers, news and commerce, social networking and mobile applications do this using their own algorithms and mappings. It creates a bubble for the user while accumulating exabytes of persuasive monetized knowledge for the hunters to capitalize on, and manipulate, human value. There is a disadvantage to the hunters when the gatherers have too many choices. It is a further disadvantage to the hunters if the gathers know their choices are being limited. The danger is in users thinking they have full access when actual information is being separated into parts by technological design.
The challenge with predictive analytics is, once gathered, it inevitably become persuasive by limiting the user’s choices and pushing them toward the predictions. Perpetual access to limiting information or points-of-view constricts the depth and breadth of human perceptions and as a result gamma wave mental activity is less and less frequent. The analytical skills are harder to recover over time; the human cognitive skills dummy-down. The user does not know this is happening to them which garners trust and defense of the limited information as the full extent of valid information. This gives the perception that differing ideas are invalid. Multiplied by approximately seven billion humans on the Earth, all getting mapped to corporate or political “predictions,” suggests even more significant implications than a world speaking different fundamental languages and dialects. The ugly histories of humanity had bases in information outside of the known bubble being resisted, and in many cases completely rejected.
It can be argued, neurological effects of digital misinformation and "fake news" erodes trust in existing institutions while creating individualized "worlds" that people occupy. The ease of using the technology itself and the "zombie" state it puts people in may create an illusion of meditative-type downtime when neurological stimulation is measurably happening. This makes the user more susceptible to habitual return to the same websites, similar returning to sleep each night; with both having connections to mental fatigue. The increased trust in discordant views which are in stark contrast to the historical or existing institutional rules or laws of societies has led to significant conversations with few solutions. Various disciplines are asking why and what to do when civil discourse and socialization is diminished between those vehemently identifying solely with their own bubble. What results occur from the paradox of globalizing corporate and political Internet power but isolating user information? Additionally, the encouragement of racial, political, religious and other agenda’s hegemony versus homogeneity-of-variance found in democratic societies and measured through research methods such as the Levene's test, make it difficult to identify habitual Internet activity as one the causes of the world shift towards “otherism.”
Suggested Research Solutions
The human senses are phenomena, which means they can be measured through Bayesian or other scientific techniques on the brain. When humans are happy or sad, they can laugh or cry. When humans are scared or brave, they fight or flee. Natural perceptions can sense authenticity in other humans through what used to be known as “common” sense but this required physicality. The challenge of virtualization is that human senses are less reliable on the Internet and complete strangers agree, argue and/or insult one another regularly on social networking sites based on information that may or may not be valid because all information is manipulated in all media without disclosure.
Possible solutions involve applied behavior analysis (ABA) research factoring technology or the mechanism-in-use in the measurements of all human activities. This is currently done in the research with tablets having a communicative benefit with children on the autism spectrum. It is possible that all Internet users are exhibiting some level of mental spectrum modification or human brain wave change. Technology skews the behavior of the information gatherers usually for the purpose of increasing consumerism but also for political outcomes. Signs of this possibility related to technology use are evident when people, with no geographical, physical or social connections, use the exact same words and phrases repetitively to drill in one point-of-view. Overlooking this modification when interpreting human perceptions misses the possible correlation between world events and their primary causes.
Neurological studies can also be beneficial. Force/fear reactions, the lack of original opinions, choice of friends and even who gets promotions within an organization can be based upon perceptions which are gleaned from synaptic responses from persuasively-induced Internet use. The natural quality of the mind to seek overall equilibrium, diversity, curiosity and intellectual growth is unknowingly being limited based on persuasive technology preventing access to fuller and more robust information. Globally, the divisions of groups based on analytic persuasion may affect larger and larger social systems.
Technology is not going away but will only grow as more sophisticated artificial intelligence immerse all users. It affects most aspects of life to include the Internet-of-Things (IoT) in vacuum cleaners, in baby monitors and even the GPS chips placed in phones, cars and animals. Human perceptions are also changing right alongside technology and gatherers deserve control over their own senses. Humans are not designed to be zombies and have an ever-evolving sensory potential that requires liberation from the control of technologically-induced mental modifications. The lens in which humans perceive the world determines our current and future realities. It determines if societies are going to be violent, peaceful, despotic or democratic. More research on exactly what is happening to human perceptions, as a result of information being divided and spliced for each predicted group for the purpose of persuasion, is essential. The option to just turn it off and make a living are becoming less and less realistic for everyone. The unique contributions that the human mind makes to the greater whole, muted by the illusion that smart devices are superior to human potential, illumines the warning of the late Stephen Hawkings. “Computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence, and exceed it," he said. "Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don't know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.” (Osbourne, Nov. 7, 2017).
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Itti, L. & Baldi, P. (2005). Bayesian surprise attracts human attention. Neural Processing Systems.
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About the Author
Desiree L. DePriest has been IT/AI business intelligence professor at Purdue University Global for 13 years. She is a professor in the MSIT program with expertise is in business intelligent information systems and artificial intelligence in business environments. She holds a Ph.D. in Management & Organization, with an emphasis in Information Technology, along with two masters degrees (Telecom and IS respectively). Desiree has a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and a certificate in ABA psychology which greatly assists in her work in the various areas of business intelligence, industrial and organizational motivation and attitudes.
She is the Vice-chair of the Institutional Review Board at Purdue Global. Desiree developed and directs the Purdue Global Internship Program – Technology (PGIP-T) which is an internship for IT and business students wanting real world experience prior to graduation. She also created the Graduate Information Technology Association (GITA) for active and alumni IT/Business students, and serves as Faculty Advisor.
Dr. DePriest recently won the “Best Practices” award for her work in the internship from the American Association of Adult Continuing Education (AAACE). Her publications include research in persuasive and predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and algorithms in decision support, and pattern recognition. Her recent interests have expanded to neural correlates of consciousness (NCC), cognitive coupling (CC) and quantum teaming (QT). Quantum Teaming is a quality management methodologies with particular focus on virtual team environments and is the intellectual property of Dr. DePriest. Throughout the year, she presents at professional conferences in these areas.
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