I wanted to briefly follow up last week’s ruminations on the mind altering implications of new media technologies. As I noted at the end of last week’s post (July 20), my instinct is that if you try to do everything, you do nothing. I am frequently as much of a crazed multi-tasking fool as any other executive, as I rush through the hydra-headed challenges and crises of being the CEO of my own firm Corporate Rain International. Yet this flittery, fast-paced daily race often leaves me with the breathless sense that I am missing the bigger picture, of seeing the trees but not the forest.
“Our research shows that multitasking can have an insidious effect on learning, changing the brain systems that are involved so that even if one can learn while multitasking, the nature of that learning is altered to be less flexible.”
Or consider the work of Dr. Patricia Greenfield, a professor of developmental psychology at UCLA. She warns in a Science article last year that our growing use of the Internet, with all its advantages of speed and accessibility, seems to be weakening our “higher order cognitive processes [including] abstract vocabulary, mindfulness, reflection, inductive problem solving, critical thinking and imagination.”
Likewise, William Powers new book, Hamlet’s Blackberry, putatively argues convincingly that the distractions of manic connectivity can lead to a lack of productivity. Though I have not yet read his book, Mr. Powers apparently warns that an excess of digital activity reduces mental life to “a blizzard of snapshots” (WSJ review-David Harsanyi-June 30, 2010).
Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows (see last week’s post), begins his excellent book with a quote from HAL, the super computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL’s mind is being slowly erased at the end of the film and HAL plaintively says, “My mind is going. I can feel it.” Carr goes on to expound, “Over the last few years, I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory….Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” Well put. Thank you, Nicholas.