As people rely more and more on technology to solve problems, the ability of humans to think for themselves will surely deteriorate.

Above is a text from GRE essay pool. I am having difficulty in relating its parts. I also read some sample essays but I am still unable to grasp the meaning.

The line I am unable to interpret is "ability of humans to think for themselves".

Does this mean that we do not give ourselves enough times? or, we do not bother our needs?

But as per the sample essays, above statement refers to human inability to think of more productive ideas of doing the same things.

Please could anyone help me in understanding the meaning.

2 Answers 2


What is trying to be conveyed here is that with time, our dependency on technology is increasing.

The "ability of humans to think for themselves" is talking about the ability of humans to think without the aid of technology, but by their own minds.

On a longer timescale, as people get more dependent on using technology to seek answers for all their problems, the natural problem-solving instinct that we have will deteriorate (and eventually die out).

A simple example - Someone who has been introduced to calculators early in life, and has used the same for all their math will find it very difficult to do even basic computations without its help.

  • "To think for themselves" meant "to think independently, without guidance" long before technological assistance was quite so readily available. True, technological assistance is what's most relevant in this passage, but blindly following the guidance of Church or State is a long-standing example of failing to think for oneself. Blindly following the guidance of Machine is simply a more recent example. Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 17:11

The phrase "to think for yourself" means to take responsibility for behaving rationally. The opposite is to let others do the thinking for you. I think a little context will make it more clear.

Consider the story of Stanislav Petrov, a Russian soldier who was in charge of monitoring nuclear missile launches in the 1980's. 34 years ago this week, a malfunction caused a computer to report that the United States had launched missiles. If Stanislav had trusted the computer to do the thinking for him, he might have reported an attack and triggered an exchange of real nuclear weapons. Because he was thinking for himself, he determined it was a false alarm and averted a disaster.

With this story in mind, consider the sample text again. The author believes that our ability to question technology will be reduced as the technology becomes more reliable and trusted. If a situation such as Sanislav's arises again, will the soldiers think for themselves, or let the computer do the thinking for them?

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