Focus! Multitasking excellence is a myth. Six million years
of primate evolution must militate against the Distracted
Digital Age; our human brains were hardwired to concentrate
on intricate problems, with a loss of peak performance when
distracted. No one can simultaneously and accurately
perform four or more tasks; switching back and forth between
them is little better.
But our egos tell us otherwise (we multitaskers are au courant,
the best and the brightest--just see how busy and connected
we are!)Yes, yet: accuracy is significantly less, and analytical,
logical processes are fragmented, reduced. Check out the
multitasking experiments at MIT and Stanford as described on a
recent PBS Frontline, "Digital Nation"; you may be as chagrined
as the carefully chosen students tested were, suddenly faced with
evidence of their less than-accomplished brilliance.
Certain university educators have been forced into a kind of
reductio ad absurdia, wherein they no longer assign books
over 200 pages to their students, some of whom in turn publicly
admit they no longer read books at all, but instead utilize
digital analogs of Cliff's Notes. Some professors have concerns
about the reduced ability to maintain, sustain protracted focus,
leading others to pen tomes bemoaning the "dumbest generation".
So what are we left with? -Too many younger people who don't
know that Dayton is in Ohio, can't locate large European
countries on a map, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. -Grammar rules
and spelling tossed by the wayside, which in turn dulls and
distorts any intent to accurately communicate.
Then there is our immaturity, initially prolonged because the
United States considered itself the sole winner of WWII (as we
sustained fewer losses and no invasions to speak of). The Xbox
crew vanishes for long periods into a vicarious "reality"
where they have "adventures" and "skills" "far beyond those of
mortal men", becoming Superman (-Super Avatar?) for the
moment. Whatever happened to actually BECOMING someone,
something, special? Answer: that takes far more effort,
sustained focus (reread: hard work, appreciation of delayed
gratification.) Overly highly prioritizing fun and relaxation
is more properly the domain of children, not adults, who
supposedly mature to enjoyments of a deeper
sort, while still retaining a sense of fun.
All this is absolutely nothing new, current media warnings
to the contrary. The rush to the bottom, lowest common
denominator culture has been building my whole 65 years.
"New", "easy", etc. blared out from ads from NYC's Madison
Avenue not long after WWII ended, smoothly segueing/sliding us
into the consumer culture, the Me Decade, the Me Generation and
--voila! The Wow! Now! Generation. All technology turnover has
done merely exacerbated these national societal trends.
Every new generation generates fears that the world will now
be carted off to Hell in a handbasket, which thankfully hasn't
happened. But with the advent of the Atomic Bomb and
"automation" (antiquated term, that) the world HAS forever
changed, and many of us are afraid we have engaged in a
Faustian bargain with our darker selves, with unmanageable results.
So, what's next? --Another new gadget that entertains us and
detains us from looking deep inside, the real final frontier.
I'm not wishing for a return to the cave, merely hoping
for just enough simplicity married to introspection which will
enrich all our lives and relationships, solve pressing global
In the meantime, however, we're being digitally dumbed down
while ascending the Tower of Babel. Alexis de Tocqueville and
George Santayana are still spinning in their graves.