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20 years

People may be becoming too infatuated with gadgets, psychologists warn

By George Putic

November 18th, 2014 (VOA) At electronic shows, visitors flock around the newest tablet computers, cameras, 3D television screens, even small robots, dreaming of taking one home.

Consumers spend hours waiting in lines and spend hundreds of dollars to be among the first to get the latest smart phone.

The modern world seems to be infatuated with shiny expensive objects that keep us connected, help us navigate, record our thoughts and memorable events, and even talk to us. So infatuated, we no longer merely “own” our gadgets — we have relationships with them, according to clinical psychologist and life transition therapist Francine Lederer.

“It’s a lot easier to have, right, a one-sided relationship with your computer, your phone, than it is with a live person. So that at the end of the day, you don’t need to worry about somebody being angry with you, you don’t need to worry about getting blamed for anything,” she said.

Magical devices

Although having a thousand Facebook friends may be perceived as equivalent to having a thousand real, authentic friendships, Lederer said in reality it is not so.

“It comes down to a lot of the internal stuff. How we feel about ourselves, our own sense of self-esteem, our self-worth, a lot of those things,” she said.

But gadgets are magical. They fascinate us the same way we are intrigued by a magician’s trick, said psychology professor at the University of the South Pacific, Robert Epstein.

“If you don’t know how they’re doing it, that’s very fascinating and intriguing. But if they do it 10 times or 20 times or 100 times, it gets boring and you want something else. That’s why magicians do not repeat the same trick over and over again,” he said.

Plugged in, isolated

Epstein, former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today magazine, said he is concerned that gadgets will take on a life of their own.

“All we’re seeing so far is a little bit of the so-called wearable technology that you might wear on your wrist or in your glasses, but we’re moving very rapidly, whether the public knows it or not, toward real biological interfaces so that the gadgets will be built into us to some extent,” he said.

Lederer said the danger is that our dependence on electronic gadgets is increasingly being perceived as normal.

“I think our society in a way, and the media, often times normalizes the extent to which we use these gadgets and phones, but the reality is, it’s really not healthy for us,” she said.

Scientists predict that gadgets with biological interfaces may be available within the next 20 years and, coupled with strong artificial intelligence, will be much smarter than today.

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