Just when we had learned to yarn for more multitasking, learning quickly just-in-time by doing (instead of just-in-case), not-worrying about information overflow and fragmentation of time etc Nicholas Carr comes out with bad news:
- internet shatters our focus and worse
– rewires our brain as new habits change its neurons and synapses “the depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory … to long-term memory, the minds filing system.” “Working memory can hold only a relatively small amount of information at a time.” “A break in attention can sweep its contents from our mind”. “Our ability to learn suffers, and our understanding remains weak.”
- The Internet is an interruption system. It seizes our attention only to scramble it.” The Internet and all the messaging and news feed going on leads to clicking into all sorts of things – leading to a penalty scientists call “switching cost” - “Switching just between two tasks can add substantially to our cognitive load, impeding our thinking and increasing the likelihood that we’ll overlook or misinterpret important information.”
- this negative trend is accelerated by the fact that we WANT to be interrupted – by various sorts of messages. We overemphasize the value of the immediate – we crave the new even if we know that it is trivial
- the only positive effects seem to be better hand-eye coordination and better fast-paced problem solving BUT again:
- “every medium develops some cognitive skill at the expense of of others” visual-spatial is up – but deep processing that underpins mindful knowledge acquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination and reflection.”
Does this sound like something to worry about? Surely. Does it sound credible in my case? To a degree – I do tend to check SMS-messages and IM right away, I pop into news, I can reply to blog posts directly and may even update Facebook while working. Do these real time actions subtract more from my work than they add? Especially as one of my tasks is to find ways to help the market to evolve by interacting and reacting. The jury is still out.
But surely we have all noted that the information overflow is leading to new challenges for those who have to spread information. Everybody seems to be writing – and nobody is reading (no time as they are writing). As there is so much of it and very demanding tasks often move into more narrow and fast moving silos it is much more difficult to actually get messages spread with traditional methods. This would actually point to target groups not-having time to read what you say – or not being able to take it in as they just skim.
The winner is Facebook – your friends tend to pick up what you say – much more widely than from the nine o’clock news..