Every transformation in history has offered great opportunities and unforeseen mental, emotional, and physical challenges. The epic human transitions – the Stone Age – agricultural age – industrial age – the information age – all had their unique set of amazing breakthroughs and overwhelming difficulties. The digital age is no different. It is offering the greatest advances in human history. On the flip side, digital age toxicity is a looming threat that must be confronted and dealt with immediately. There are three interrelated areas of concern; physical, mental, and emotional health. This article will identify the problem and offer a solution for each concern. First, it is important to remember how far we have come as a society while also identifying a chilling trend that should be a wake-up call for everyone.
The Greatest Time in History to be Alive
In Expansion Mindset and Humanity Upgrade, we explored in detail how this is the greatest time in human history to be alive. Steven Pinker, in Enlightenment Now and Yuval Noah Harari, in Sapiens, go into exquisite detail on how this happened and why it is accurate. I urge you to read the articles, and, if you have the time, both books; it will give you a fundamentally different and elevated outlook on life. In the words of DeWitt Jones:
“When we focus on what’s right with the world, we have the energy to fix what’s wrong.”
There is much to be grateful for in this world. Gratitude and vigilance will continue to move us forward. We must also have an accurate assessment of reality. There are some alarming trends developing that must be confronted immediately.
An Alarming Trend – Why isn’t Life Expectancy Skyrocketing?
Amid this amazing progress is an alarming trend. For the first time in a century, life expectancy in America is declining. Not since World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, that killed 675,000 people, have we seen a decrease in life expectancy. In the last three years, life expectancy has either stagnated or declined. This is blamed, in part, on the opioid and suicide crises. In 2017, there were 70,237 drug-overdose fatalities, with opioids accounting for 47,600 of them. Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in 2017 at 44,965. With the great advances in medicine, health awareness, mental health, public safety, and food availability, it is a sobering fact that life expectancy is decreasing. It should be the exact opposite. Life expectancy should be skyrocketing.
Is There a Solution?
Why is there such a dramatic rise in drug overdose and suicide deaths? Why is life expectancy decreasing? The answer is that we don’t know. The causes are multifactorial and interdependent. It is impossible to tease out the exact reasons in such a large and diverse population.
The digital age is toxic to many people on many levels. The following outlines toxicities in the digital age and how they affect us on a mental, emotional, and physical level. These observations will, at the very least, close some gaps in our understanding. Every transformation in the history of humanity has offered some unique and unforeseen challenges. Let’s discuss what we do know to begin to develop some solutions.
Mental Toxicity – Stress in the Age of Transformation
We are in the age of transformation. Our society is experiencing an unprecedented amount of change. Change causes uncertainty, stress and anxiety. Automation, digitization and robotics have been eliminating jobs for decades. Artificial intelligence is causing this trend to accelerate, and we could be reaching a tipping point very soon. Andrew Yang (2020 presidential candidate) in his book, The War on Normal People, outlines, in compelling detail, the upcoming upheavals in the job market and society at large. The growing exclusion of today’s youth, along with the elimination of jobs in multiple sectors of our economy, tells a foreboding story. In previous articles, I have offered a way to mitigate the risks and thrive in the age of transformation (expansion mindset).
The essentials of expansion mindset are as follows:
- Transformational intelligence (TQ) – this is a modest but important upgrade from emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ stresses the importance of emotional self-awareness, self-control, empathy and skilled relationship. TQ takes it one important step further by urging you to be proactive with your emotions. Create them in advance, especially when you know you will be in new and or difficult situations.
- The wisdom of uncertainty – we are living in the greatest era of change in human history. This is causing unprecedented levels of uncertainty. It is important that you become aware of and comfortable with the wisdom of uncertainty.
- Consciousness processing – with information doubling every 12-13 months, “fake news” and a multitude of distractions, you need an upgraded plan on how you get your information.
- Intentional Transformation Technology (ITT) – advances in neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and our understanding of brain chemistry are leading us to more predictable ways to evolve as human beings.
Expansion mindset builds on growth mindset by incorporating the above. This is your most valuable skill for navigating the 21st century.
Emotional Toxicity – Loneliness and Despair in the Digital Age
Humanity has undergone a radical environmental change. Seventy-four thousand years ago, Homo sapiens were an insignificant species of hominids whose numbers may have dwindled to an estimated two to three thousand. We had very little impact on the planet. We slowly crawled out of central Africa, and seventy-four millennia later, we dominate the planet. This transformation occurred in a relative nanosecond on the cosmic timescale. Our motivations evolved, and this evolution informs our lives to this day on a moment-to-moment basis. Safety, satisfaction and connection are still the major drivers of human behavior.
We are not the biggest, fastest, nor the strongest animal, but we are, by far, the smartest. Our brains evolved over 600 million years in three basic stages, or layers: reptile, mammal, and primate. The first layer is the reptilian brain. These structures are at the base of your brain and automatically regulate basic body functions. Your reptile brain keeps you safe by constantly scanning for threats. Your inner-lizard keeps you breathing, runs from bigger animals, eats smaller ones, and mates with ones of similar size. It’s a simple life.
The second/middle layer in your nervous system is your mammalian or emotional brain. While the reptile brain moves away from threat, the mammal brain moves toward reward. It is better suited for survival because it seeks greater opportunities in the form of better food and more desirable mates. It is focused on satisfaction. We also see the beginning of complex social structures, playfulness, and the nurturing of offspring. Emotions have served mammals extremely well for the last 300 million years, and they still dominate our behavior today.
The human/primate brain is the top layer and is responsible for our advanced intellect and interconnected world. The human brain has tripled in size over the last seven-million years, with most of that evolution happening over the last two million. Humans have developed complex social structures that allow us to cooperate flexibly and efficiently in very large groups.
The hallmarks of the human mind are not just flexibility or intelligence; it is in the connections we make with our offspring and each other that set us apart. Few, if any of us, could survive in isolation. We are completely helpless when born, and for many years to follow. Our survival requires an astounding amount of time, energy and resources to nurture and develop our young.
This enormous expenditure of time and energy encourages one to consider the possibility that safety and survival may be secondary to our need for connection. Our most basic need could be relationship. Clearly, the future of humanity will be focused on strengthening our interconnectedness. The ability to foster and enhance these connections will be the hallmark of effective future leaders.
Loneliness and Despair – The New Epidemic
Unfortunately, modern society has us more isolated and stressed than ever. A recent loneliness study tells a heartbreaking story. The survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older, revealed some alarming findings (see an excerpt from that article below):
- Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 %) or left out (47 %).
- One in four Americans (27 %) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
- Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 %) and that they are isolated from others (43 %).
- One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 %) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 %).
- Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
- Only around half of Americans (53 %) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
- Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
- Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness; respondents defined as very heavy users of social media have a loneliness score (43.5) that is not markedly different from the score of those who never use social media (41.7).
This study offers some sobering data. Humans evolved in a tribe. Our safety and satisfaction needs depend on being a part of a group of people. When we become isolated and alone, meaning and purpose are lost. Depression and despair are the result. We cannot afford to leave people behind; it is unhealthy and wrong. Johan Hari discusses how the opposite of addiction and depression is not sobriety and happiness, but connection. We must be cognizant of our need for interconnection.
Physical Toxicity in the Digital Age
This is an attempt to broaden the definition of toxicity to more appropriately fit the digital age. Chronic diseases are skyrocketing; diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune disease, dementia, etc. For the first time in history, far more humans will die of complications from obesity than from starvation. There are few places left in the world where the soil is not depleted, contaminated or both. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat is contaminated, depleted and/or filled with empty calories. Excess belly fat is a new form of toxicity and virtually unheard of in the history of humanity. Today, 73% of Americans are obese or overweight.
In A Looming Health Crisis, we identified a digital-age toxicity that is relatively new: electromagnetic frequencies. This is the most ominous, ubiquitous and pervasive health threat in history. This is not an overstatement and is based on where the science is leading us.
Here are just a few of the documented effects of the exponentially expanding amount of electromagnetic frequencies:
- Reproductive effects: Sperm counts are down by more than 50% in technologically advanced countries worldwide. Singapore had a 31% drop in its birth rate from 2016 to 2017. This has never happened in modern history outside of war, financial collapse or famine. Sperm counts are sensitive to many environmental factors, including smoking, alcohol, toxins, etc. There are also multiple animal studies that have shown irreversible effects on fertility with digital-age toxins.
- Neurologic and psychiatric effects: There are 25 peer-reviewed studies detailing the effects of digital toxins on the central nervous system. These include insomnia, fatigue, depression, headache, lack of concentration, anxiety, stress, and memory loss.
- DNA damage: Digital toxins cause three types of cellular DNA damage. These changes to your DNA cause cancer and germline (reproductive cell) mutations. Twenty-one studies document these effects. Thirteen studies have shown that toxic energies lead to premature cell death, also known as apoptosis. This phenomenon has deleterious effects on both the reproductive and nervous system. A German study showed that 24 hours of cell phone use had the same impact on your DNA as 1,600 chest x-rays.
- Cardiac effects: The heart is a complex electrical system. Digital-age toxins cause arrhythmias. Initial exposure can cause a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), while long-term exposure will slow the heart down (bradycardia).
- Dementias: Digital toxins cause leaks in your blood brain barrier. Alzheimer’s, as well as other dementias, including early-onset dementias, have been linked to digital toxins.
- There are indications of a sixth serious and irreversible effect of digital-age toxins; autism. Research at Yale University has shown that late prenatal and early post-natal exposure of digital toxins on laboratory animals causes syndromes analogous to ADHD and autism in humans. Autism has increased a staggering 3% per year since 1997. The causes of this should be rigorously studied. The implications are worrisome.
Digital Detox: Protecting Yourself
Digital detox is repurposing a proven method of revitalizing the body at a cellular and organ level. Modern society keeps these pathways shut-off with preservatives, fat, and sugar-laden foods that make us sick, tired, and obese.
Digital-Age Toxins could soon become the major source of chronic disease, surpassing all other current factors. These are bold statements backed up by scientific facts. Even healthy people will need a digital detox on a regular basis to maintain their health.
Digital detox offers a proven way to protect, revitalize and rejuvenate the body on a cellular level. This process promotes fat loss, conserves bone and muscle mass while activating stem cells. This is the greatest health and longevity innovation of this generation.
Basics of the Digital Detox
Five days of precise nutrition and caloric intake creates a complete transformation of how your body functions on a cellular level. Sugar (glucose and glycogen) stores are depleted from the blood and organs after 24-48 hours. Your body then burns belly fat for fuel. This is a positive all by itself. However, inside the cells, we see the most important benefit. Without sugar, cells turn “junk” into fuel. The cell becomes energized, stronger, cleaner, and healthier by consuming its own toxins. This is not science fiction. Yoshinuri Oshumi won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine by identifying this process. It has a fancy clinical name; autophagy. Finally, stem cells are activated, and they regenerate or repair diseased tissue and organs especially the immune. This is one of the greatest health and longevity breakthroughs in in modern history.
There is much more to a proper digital detox. Health is an ongoing journey. You can find all the tools you will need at Humanity Upgrade Digital Detox.
We Must Act Now.
We are on the precipice of a health crisis. Digital detox is first about limiting exposure to digital toxins and then reversing the effects. We must act now. For the first time in modern history, life expectancy in the U.S. is declining and has done so three years in a row. The causes are multifactorial, and we may never know the exact cause. We must confront these problems on every level as individuals and as a society. Some toxins we can eliminate, some we can avoid, and some we must counteract and reverse. Digital toxins are an exponentially expanding health threat. A Humanity Upgrade is essential to your overall health and wellness strategy.