Once again Baroness Greenfield has been giving evidence to the House of Lords about the dangers of computers and social networking. I would like to know who else is giving evidence to them? Is hers the only voice? If so, I fear for their ability to make reasoned decisions about this field. This time she claims that "Social network sites risk infantilising the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity", warning "It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations. We know that the human brain is exquisitely sensitive to the outside world."
Well, it may be hard to see, Baroness, but why don't you give it a try? Yes, the human brain is sensitive and yes, it may be changing. But in the year of Darwin's anniversary, why should we assume this is a Bad Thing? Couldn't humans do with a bit of tuning up?
Her remedies are, forgive me, intensely naive if not insulting to earlier generations and present non-literate cultures. She claims that there is "a risk of loss of empathy as children read novels less.". I wonder what kind of era she comes from? Novels have been around for 400 years maximum - what did children do before then? Were they not intelligent? Did they not develop talents in rapid response / high concentration activities such as hunting and fishing? I could go on spelling this out, but I don't think I should have to.
The danger of scientists untempered by Humanities knowledge of history, anthropology, sociology and culture is once again rearing its head. Baroness, it's not enough to measure brain activity, we must understand it in the wider context of human culture. Please, get some experts with a wider range of viewpoints on your team, including some who really know about education and social networking. You are in urgent need of a transliterate perspective. Without it you are a danger to society.