Digital myths – the 21st century equivalent to old wives’ tales – are shared far and wide and given extra credence when they’re matched with some faux research or a clever image that adds to their dubious credibility. But there’s plenty of research around that can help you navigate the waters of dodgy claims and digital myths.
Let's take a closer look at some of these popular myths and sort some facts from the fiction.
Myth 1: The cloud is unsecured and your emails could be read by anyone
The question you need to ask when it comes to using cloud-based email services, or any other cloud service, is this: do you trust the service provider?
The providers of large cloud services typically employ the best security people on the market and have a lot more resources to throw at the security challenge than most businesses. If the cloud provider you choose has a good reputation and proven track record for not only being secure but dealing with issues, then it’s likely they are better at security than you are.
Myth 2: Blockchain is (or isn't) the best way to do everything
There is no absolute cure-all when it comes to technology and Blockchain is one of them. But what exactly is Blockchain? A blockchain is a distributed ledger system that relies on multiple parties validating the data that is stored. The contrast is with a traditional database that is stored centrally.
Blockchain does have some great business applications. In complex supply chains where the components that come together to make a product need to be tracked, blockchain can be an effective way of ensuring all the data is safely recorded and that it’s accessible to the relevant parties. But it’s not a universal solution that works for everything. While it’s secure, it’s not fast, so it’s not suitable for high transactional volume systems.
Myth 3: Wireless devices give us cancer
International health agencies establish what they believe, through research, are safe levels of electromagnetic and other radiation. They publish those standards and the companies that make our devices must conform to those standards in order to sell their products.
But we also don’t have a lot of longitudinal data to look at the long-term effects of low levels of exposure. Mobile phones have only been popular for about 20 years and market penetration has only reached saturation in most western markets over the last five years or so.
While many of us are confident that the current data says the likelihood of digital devices giving us cancer is negligible, it’s perhaps wise to also be open to the idea that we may not yet have a complete picture.
Myth 4: Gaming creates anti-social psychopaths
When it comes to thorough, peer-reviewed research, there’s a very large body of knowledge that suggests there is no causal link between violent video games and the expression of violence. But it’s also important to look at who is conducting and sponsoring the research as many organisations have published research that strongly reflects their political and social agendas.
There’s also plenty of research that suggests spending all your time online and not socialising face-to-face can have a behavioural impact. The short answer is the development of real world (or as the cool kids would say - IRL, or ‘in real life’) social skills requires practice. And that practice is hard to get looking at a screen and tapping on a keyboard.
Myth 5: Smartphones are making us dumber
Many of us freely admit to not remembering our kids’ phone numbers or remembering the directions to places we visit semi-regularly. Instead, perhaps we use the fast dial option on our smartphones or the GPS app to direct us along the best route.
Hopefully this doesn’t mean we’re getting less intelligent, but merely leaving room for more interesting information in our memories! But it’s true that our digital devices are a distraction. Some research published during 2017 in Psychology Today found our ability to hold and process data improves if our smartphones are in another room. So, if you want to concentrate better, it may be time to stow your smartphone elsewhere while you work.
Myth 6: Artificial Intelligence and robots will take over our jobs
Every profession will be impacted by ‘the rise of the machines’. Some jobs will be done by automated software. But, once you get over the fact that many tasks will disappear from the work we do, the flip side of this is that we will have more time.
Many experts think this means humans will be able to focus on harder and more interesting problems to solve rather than spending their time on repetitive and boring tasks. In other words, we won’t be unemployed – we’ll be ‘differently-employed’