“Music has charms to soothe the savage breast” is what playwright William Congreve wrote in 1697. But what do cell phones, computers, video games, and other techno-distractors do to us and can Nature reverse the ill effects of technomania or the “heartache and thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” that Shakespeare’s Hamlet whined about?
For this answer, we turn from post-Enlightenment dramatists to 20th century folk comics. “Five neuroscientists are in a raft going down the San Juan River” the joke starts. But it’s not a joke- at least there’s no punch line yet. These brainiacs have come to Utah to literally float away from modern life for a while and hopefully find out how neurotic our Blackberrys, Xboxes, and iPods make us. Simultaneously, they hope to find out if getting away from these things and, more specifically, into un-technofied natural areas or wilderness heal the wounds.
Similar studies have been done on the negative effects of modernism and the positive effects of Nature on children like Richard Louv’s famous “Last Child in the Woods.” I can say from personal experience that getting away from my computers, phone, TV and other gadgetry not only calms me down but engages me in life on Earth on a level that’s impossible from in front of a glowing screen or the wheel of a dangerous, moving vehicle.
I wish the professors luck. More than that, I hope they have a great time here in Utah. I know I do.