On August 6, 1945 the world changed - and math had a lot to do with it. A Japanese city was obliterated in a heartbeat and the atomic age was announced to the world.
The Manhattan Project aimed to build the first atomic bomb. But it was not only a competition between warring nations to build a great weapon. It was also war of man vs. machine.
At that time, both human and electronic minds raced to complete the millions of calculations necessary to calculate detonation shock-wave flow patterns and chain-reaction outcomes.
When World War II began, a “computer” was a person hired to do computation. When the war ended, the meaning of the world changed. Now, a computer was a thinking machine.
Is this really as good as it gets?
In the decades since the war, the computer has been increasingly taking over our math responsibilities. We lean on the computer for everything. Even engineers, businessmen and physicists - those who pride themselves in their math skills - have lost the calculation race to the machines.
The science fiction books and movies of the 1980s promised us an easy life where computers did our work for us. To a large extent, that future has arrived. But something is off.
While our computers can do our taxes for us and our phones can wake us up in the morning, we have also developed a reliance on machines that is almost irreversible. On the plus side, we have become god-like creatures that are half machine and half human, with undreamed powers at our fingertips.
But have we given up too much of our self reliance in exchange for promises of convenience and self-indulgence?
Smart phones = lazy brains
The smartphone is the latest gadget to grab our attention and create a dependency that is difficult to refuse. This little magic box has turned us all into neck-craning social cyborgs with immense powers to control and change our lives for better and for worse.
Smartphones connect us. They remind us. They remember for us.
But they can also trap us. Inhibit us. Limit us.
Each of us needs to consider how we use our smartphone. Is it a tool that improves our lives, or something that is used to keep ourselves away from enjoying our lives?
That is the crossroads where we now stand.
Futureproof your mind
Many of us are recognizing that the world is bigger that the screen in our hands, that we you look up into the eyes of another human, a one-second connection is stronger than a thousand likes.
We recognize that living means being present and presence leads to a need to make our own choices. This means comprehending options and outcomes. And comprehension in itself is often mathematical in nature. But the smartphone isn’t always the best tool to do this with.
Let’s use our smartphones for training - not for doing.
Learn how to calculate percentages so that you can know if you are really getting a good deal at the store.
Study statistics so that you can understand the misleading numbers that politicians spout from their podiums.
Remember those math skills when you are negotiating your salary and the value of your pension
Be confident in the knowledge that is in your head, not on your screen
It’s time to wake up from the long slumber of contentment and ignorance we have created with our smartphone reliance. Machines don’t run the world. We do.
But don’t throw your smartphone away just yet. Smartphones are powerful learning tools that can help us acquire the skills needed to take control of our lives and train, exercise our brains and maintain the skills we have.
That’s why we created Get9, a mental math game that helps you learn the skills to function without the screen.
*Get9 is currently only available in the Danish App Store. It will be available worldwide on April 20th.