Machines v Human beingsI entered a restaurant and took a table. What struck me was how quiet things seemed—until I realized that few diners were actually having conversations with each other. Their heads were lowered, faces expressionless, completely consumed in electronic devices ranging from iPhones to games. They more resembled robots, machines, rather than living human beings.

As a kid, I, my parents, my brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles—everyone—congregated at our grandparents’ farmhouse where the “old folks” sat around outside underneath the stars and related stories and tales of their lives. Kids ran and played, chased fireflies, shouted and laughed. It’s called interacting.

Contrast that to the modern era of machines and electronic devices.

A new scourge has taken root in society. An addiction to devices and machines that is destroying human potential in a variety of ways. An entire social world has been built around them, with a language of grunts and signs reminiscent of the Neanderthal period. U there dude? LOL. LMAO.

Huh?

Machines have gone from servants to masters. Once people become dependent on them, they can never go back. Machines have revved up life’s treadmill and made our days more anxious and agitated. The art of communication has been largely destroyed, along with the ability to concentrate. Reading, which requires concentration, for example, is leading to “the end of books.” It’s easier and faster, and requires less thought and concentration, to simply “google it.”

Most millennials say they had rather text each other than actually talk face to face. An emoji, they say, is more meaningful than words. In days gone by and now buried by technological “progress,” people like my family who lived in the mountains were far less lonely. We didn’t even have a telephone.

Today, hooked on “devices” of one form or another, we hang distracted like flies on a web of technology. Studies reveal that the tech generation is the loneliest generation in history. The International Classification of Diseases has formally designated this obsession with devices as a psychological addiction that alters behavior and rewires neural pathways to mimic being hooked on drugs, alcohol or gambling.

As a result of constant exposure to tech and social media, an eighth-grader’s risk for depression jumps 27 percent. “Devices” are blamed for a teen suicide rates in the U.S. that now eclipses the homicide rate. An Austrian designer invented a “substitute phone” to help frequent smartphone users cope with withdrawal symptoms by providing physical stimulation as a substitute for device usage—and perhaps return a sense of reality.

Two of the biggest tech figures in recent history—Bill Gates and Steve Job—seldom let their own kids play with the very products they helped create. That in itself should be a warning.

Not long ago, I did a two-hour interview with BBC-London on what lies ahead in technology: Spyware to keep constant track on every individual on the planet, robots with artificial human intelligence (AHI) that replicates the human mind, that can actually reason, think and feel, including self-awareness and the instincts of self-survival. People first become dependent on the machines they create. Then, they make machines that think and have the power to control their creators. This is no longer science fiction; it’s a recipe for disaster.

Charles W. Sasser is a historian and author of over 60 books. His latest is CRUSHING THE COLLECTIVE: AMERICA’S LAST CHANCE TO REMAIN FREE AND SELF-GOVERNING. Available at book stores, and Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com.