Media Release

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The growing reliance on digital gadgets could lead to ‘Digital Dementia’, resulting in a growing inability to concentrate, read other people’s body language, or even manage our finances, according to Social Futurist Mal Fletcher.

Mr Fletcher is the keynote speaker at this year’s Australian Christian Lobby Tasmanian State Conference being held in Launceston this Saturday, 23rd July.

The younger generation is in danger of living large parts of their lives at ‘phone call’ level where they are unable to read and respond to non-verbal expressions, gestures and signals, he believes.

Signs of dementia today could become something like the normal state of mind by 2022 as the population shows a decline in mental and social function.

It’s an issue that’s already worrying some people, Mal Fletcher believes: “We start to question our memory because we can’t remember 50 different logins, passwords and pin numbers. In reality our brains haven’t developed to function like that.”

Multitasking, he says, is largely just another word for distraction, and it stops people picking up important signals from the people they’re with.

“If someone is with a group of people and they’re also using their smartphone, then they’re not multitasking, they’re simply spreading their attention more thinly. As a result, they are losing their capacity to listen well and also to pick up those non-verbal signals from other people,” says Fletcher.

A leading UK judge has declared that today’s “internet generation” are not well suited to jury duty because they find it hard to take in complex and lengthy arguments in a courtroom.

“What would happen to a baby’s development if, instead of interacting with a live human mother, it was interacting only with mum on a video screen or even a digitally-rendered hologram? By the same token, what happens to the parts of the human brain responsible for reading physical, biometric signals, when we talk more via text, social networking or online video than we do face-to-face?”

Mal Fletcher, a Social Commentator and Social Futurist, leads the London-based think-tank 2020Plus. Originally from Australia, he is a regular expert guest on national BBC TV and radio programmes and other European media and press platforms and has researched global social trends for two decades.

Other contributors at the conference include ACL’s Managing Director Jim Wallace, ACL’s Tasmanian State Director Mark Brown, Labor Senator Helen Polley, Liberal MHA Michael Ferguson, and Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten.