10 June 2010


Matt Richtel reports that our brains may be coevolving with our computers. Studies show that many of those who use computers for hours at a time, for work or pleasure, experience a lowered ability to focus on a single task as they become accustomed to manipulating multiple sources of incoming information. Paradoxically, the much-vaunted skill of multitasking results in a decreasing ability to complete a given task, and a decreasing ability to perform tasks well, given our split attention. Heavy multitaskers "have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, and experience more stress .... fractured thinking and lack of focus persist even after the multitasking ends."

In short, the nonstop interactivity imposed by computers and cell phones comes at a price, both behaviorally (fractured marriages from diminished quality time together, car wrecks from driving while phoning), and in the biological functioning of the brain itself. One wonders whether altered brain functioning may lead to altered brain structure, as overused neural connections swell and underused connections atrophy. Might those of us who use computers heavily, be evolving into a separate subspecies? Might humans gradually diverge into entirely separate species, say, Home sapiens and Homo android? It's not a new notion -- science fiction writers have taken up the theme many times. And we all know how frequently yesterday's science fiction has become today's science fact. I wonder if a baby android would look as cute as a baby sapiens? Perhaps only to its mother (aka parental genesis unit?).

Here's a wee bit of J.S. Bach to ease you through your electron-sorting day.

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