The good, the bad and the detrimental – of technology

Written by
7th June 2017

A friend of mine recently went to a talk given by a neuroscientist from University College London. The speaker is one of a team of scientists who are looking into the impact of technology on the brain.

One of her theories is that technology frees up the brain to be more creative and focus on more advanced tasks because we are no longer burdened by ‘mundane’ tasks such as remembering telephone numbers. Everything we need to remember is in our phones.

The drawback is that our obsession with technology limits our ability to ‘day dream’ and let the mind wander. There are studies currently underway to assess whether this has an impact on our thought processing.

She said that most of her colleagues at UCL don’t let their children sit in front of a computer or play with a phone for long periods of time. I have to admit I am the same with my children. I think this is indicative of our belief that too much exposure to technology is a bad thing.

In my professional life, I can see the pros and cons of technology. For instance, all orthodontists like to be in control. We are professional control freaks. It’s imperative if we are to achieve the tiny movements and rotations of teeth which will give our patients straighter teeth.

But perhaps there is a risk that our control is eroded in the digital era? For my part, I provide the diagnosis and plan the treatment as well as undertake the digital set up and bracket placement for each patient while the laboratory places the brackets into the bond-up trays. I also decide on how much IPR should be undertaken but I know the laboratory can provide this service too. It would be easy in the circumstances to become disempowered, to rely on the laboratory’s bracket placing. But I don’t. My patients rely on me for their diagnosis and the ongoing management of their treatment and that is what they get.

But it does worry me that there is the potential for some of the laboratory based systems to hand over too much control. It’s not their duty to check the qualifications of the clinician who is ordering the appliances. Nor is the patient, who is one step removed, likely to understand the nuances of a system manufactured in a laboratory. Unless each clinician is always committed to being in control there is a risk that patients interests are not always fully served.

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