Technology has revolutionized the way we do business. Whether it’s the instant access to infinite knowledge through a device in our pocket, or the ability for businesses to expand into new markets with a virtual phone number, the scope of technology’s impact is limitless, and this trend shows no sign of letting up.

 

While this has been great for job creation, productivity, and learning new skills, there is a growing body of evidence that uncovers the negative effects technology can have on our bodies. To fully realize the impact everyday tech has on us, we sourced scientific research and expert opinion on the subject, before working with a 3D designer to create a future human whose body has physically changed due to consistent use of smartphones, laptops, and other tech.

 

Could Mindy be the human of 3000 and beyond?

 

Hunched-back Humans

 

 

Arched Back and Neck

The design and typical user habits of modern tech objects like smartphones and computer monitors have a significant impact on the way we sit and stand. Consistently adjusting our position to look down at our phone, or up at our office screen, has been proven to strain parts of our body that determine our posture.

 

We spoke to Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, who outlined which parts of the body are under pressure when using technology:

 

“Spending hours looking down at your phone strains your neck and throws your spine off balance. Consequently, the muscles in your neck have to expend extra effort to support your head. Sitting in front of the computer at the office for hours on end also means that your torso is pulled out in front of your hips rather than being stacked straight and aligned.”

 

The link between technology and posture is now well established, and it’s why Mindy’s back and neck (which we’ll go into more detail on later) are leaning over into her chest.

 

How Texting Could Mold Our Arms

 

 

Text Claw

A closer look at Mindy’s arm reveals two significant anatomical changes, directly caused by the use of one particular tech device – the smartphone. A recently coined condition, “text claw” occurs after consistently gripping your smartphone, curling your fingers round into an unnatural position for long periods of time.

 

Dr. Nikola Djordjevic from Med Alert Help explains the science behind the syndrome:

 

“A few years ago, mobile internet usage surpassed desktop, and we now hold the internet in our hands. However, the way we hold our phones can cause strain in certain points of contact – causing “text claw,” which is known as cubital tunnel syndrome.”

 

90-Degree Elbow

Dr. Djordjevic’s explanation for text claw also applies to the other noticeable physical change on Mindy’s arm – 90-degree elbow. Also known as “smartphone elbow”, this is caused by the typical positioning of the arm when holding and using smartphones – either for general use or holding up to our ears during phone calls.

 

Text claw and 90-degree elbow (or scientifically speaking, cubital tunnel syndrome) both point to a similar type of unnatural behavior, as Dr. Djordjevic explained:

 

“This syndrome is caused by pressure or the stretching of the ulnar nerve which runs in a groove on the inner side of the elbow. This causes numbness or a tingling sensation in the ring and little fingers, forearm pain, and weakness in the hands. Keeping the elbow bent for a long time – most often, while holding your phone – can stretch the nerve behind the elbow and put pressure on it.”

 

Will Tech Make Us Smaller?

 

 

Tech Neck

Returning to Mindy’s posture, the effects of technology on the neck have also given rise to a new condition – aptly named “tech neck”. In an article for Health Matters, Dr. K. Daniel Riew from the New York-Presbyterian Orch Spine Hospital, broke down exactly what tech neck is:

 

“When you’re working on a computer or looking down at your phone, the muscles in the back of the neck have to contract to hold your head up. The more you look down, the harder the muscles have to work to keep your head up. These muscles can get overly tired and sore from looking down at our smartphones and tablets or spending the majority of our working day on computers.”

 

Thicker Skull

We all know technology can distract our brains from important work, but does it have any lasting damage to Mindy’s brain? If so, how might she be different when looking to limit that damage? Again, the research centers mainly around smartphones. There are growing concerns that radiofrequency radiation emitted from smartphones could cause serious health implications when exposed to the brain.

 

In 2011, the World Health Organization classified smartphone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, with a number of long-term studies seeking to establish the full impact. After a 2018 study suggested smartphone radiation may affect memory performance, questions were raised over its impact on other cognitive areas too.

 

The effects are believed to be particularly severe on children. Their lesser developed skulls are thinner, absorbing up to three times more radiation than adult brains. Given the impact it could potentially have on us all, Mindy has developed a slightly thicker skull, protecting her from harm.

 

Smaller Brain

The next change to Mindy’s appearance isn’t noticeable to the naked eye. We may develop thicker skulls, but if one scientific theory is to be believed, technology may also change the size of our brains. In 2010, cognitive scientist David Geary said:

 

“I think the best explanation for the decline in our brain size is the idiocracy theory.”

 

Popularized by the 2006 film “Idiocracy”, in which an ordinary man wakes up 500 years in the future to find he is the most intelligent man on the planet, the theory has gained traction thanks to research that showed how human brains shrunk between 1.9 million and 10,000 years ago. Why? Thanks to technological advances in agriculture, health and many more walks of life, we now have to do so much less to survive. Following evolutionary theory, it’s not just people with larger brains who are being selected.

 

It could even extend to a smaller human altogether, as Adina Mahalli from Enlightened Reality told us:

 

“The theory of evolution would point to a smaller human being in the future. This is largely due to the fact that survival no longer depends on being the largest, strongest person in the species.

 

“Likewise, reproductive success is now dependent on a wide variety of metrics, including financial abilities. In the future, the more technologically savvy people will likely be the most successful. In light of this, human beings will begin to shrink.”

 

A Second Eyelid

Mindy’s final change is possibly her most outlandish. One area we’re yet to touch on is the eyes. Research into screens causing headaches, eye strain, and even blindness is well established – so how does Mindy’s body look to combat this? We spoke to Kasun Ratnayake from the University of Toledo, who suggested a radical evolutionary development that could limit the amount of harmful light our eyes are exposed to:

 

“Humans may develop a larger inner eyelid to prevent exposure to excessive light, or the lens of the eye may be evolutionary developed such that it blocks incoming blue light but not other high wavelength lights like green, yellow or red.”

 

Mindy’s sideways blink, coming from another inner eyelid that protects us from excessive exposure to light from tech devices, is the final evolutionary change to our futuristic, tech-effected human.

 

 

Tech Impact on Mental Health

 

There’s another tech-influenced element to Mindy that isn’t grounded in physical change – her mental state. Evidence is quickly mounting up that shows the damage technology can have on our mindset. Recent studies have fleshed out a link between Facebook use and a decline in your long-term wellbeing, and social media is also being blamed for increases in child anxiety and depression.

 

Dr. Sal Raichbach of the Ambrosia Treatment Center summarised current concerns:

 

“Privacy, safety, and full-fledged technology addictions are the leading concerns when it comes to communicating via technology. Technology has evolved faster than police, politicians, psychologists or parents can keep up.

 

What is clear is that using technology to communicate can make us more disconnected. Private conversations can be exploited with real consequences including causing trauma or ending careers. The safety of our children or our businesses can be compromised.”

 

From a business perspective, it can hamper employee performance too. Blue light emitted from tech devices have long been proven to ruin sleep. Ellen Wermter from Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine explains how this has a knock-on effect on productivity:

 

“There is one biological phenomenon that will improve communication, creativity, productivity, endurance, reaction time, concentration, memory, mood, and more – and that is proper sleep.

 

“One of the main influences of our sleep patterns is light, particularly that which we get through our phones, tablets, and laptops which many of us use late into the evening and even take into our bedrooms.”

 

We can’t visualize the mental health impact of technology on Mindy, but technology could well leave her more open to issues such as anxiety and stress.

 

 

Tips for Maintaining Health in the Office

Clearly, humans are far from likely to replicate the startling appearance of Mindy in the future; her anatomical changes are exaggerated. But she represents some grounded, scientifically-based concerns that businesses need to bear in mind. Technology unquestionably boosts the bottom line of almost any business, but how do we ensure there is a balance between maximizing productivity and maintaining employee wellbeing?

 

“We encourage our employees to take regular rest breaks. We encourage them to get up from their desks for regular breaks, to stretch their legs a little and give their eyes a rest from staring at a screen.”

 

CEO of Finance Pal Jacob Dayan’s suggestion is important. As CEO, supporting these small steps can create a positive company culture that ensures employee wellbeing comes first:

 

“We have an employee kitchen that we’ve recently been stocking up with snacks and coffee in order to encourage our employees to step away from the desk and socialize a little. Think of it as the modern watercooler.”

 

You could go one step further and put in place initiatives to get employees not just off their seat, but actively exercising – as Jason Kay, CEO of Retreaver, explains:

 

“Exercise is an obvious way to reduce stress and improve health and wellbeing for anybody, but it also inadvertently limits the use of technology as well. If employees spend some portion of their day exercising, then that is a welcome relief from technology.

 

“Businesses can promote exercise by either buying equipment for the office or offering free gym memberships to their employees. Healthy employees will always be a benefit to any business as it helps create a positive and productive mindset.”

 

Jason Kay’s final point underpins the necessity of considering Mindy and her anatomical changes. Technology, just like employee wellbeing, brings immeasurable business benefits, but there is a sweet spot to be found. Happy employees will work harder to grow your business, and leaders should leave no stone unturned in aiming to encourage an increase in morale and productivity.