A Multi-tasking World to Love and Distrust

Lori Aratani, over at the Washington Post has written an interesting piece titled Teens Can Multitask, But What Are Costs? I
suspect the cost is not only to teens. With exploding responsibilities,
who doesn’t feel like they have way too much on their plate?

Lori Aratani, over at the Washington Post has written an interesting piece titled Teens Can Multitask, But What Are Costs? I
suspect the cost is not only to teens. With exploding responsibilities,
who doesn’t feel like they have way too much on their plate?

It’s homework time and 17-year-old Megan Casady of Silver Spring is ready to study.

heads down to the basement, turns on MTV and boots up her computer.
Over the next half hour, Megan will send about a dozen instant messages
discussing the potential for a midweek snow day. She’ll take at least
one cellphone call, fire off a couple of text messages, scan
Weather.com, volunteer to help with a campus cleanup day at James
Hubert Blake High School where she is a senior, post some comments on a
friend’s Facebook page and check out the new pom squad pictures another
friend has posted on hers.

In between, she’ll define "descent
with modification" and explain how "the tree analogy represents the
evolutionary relationship of creatures" on a worksheet for her AP
biology class.

Call it multitasking homework, Generation ‘Net style.

Makes me a little weak in the knees, but I find myself doing a
half-dozen things while I write this and I’m a hell of a long distance
from my teens. That touches on the reality of constant information, which is akin to constant stimulation, which is akin to who knows what? Bad government? Misunderstanding the issues? Inability to know the difference?

is special concern for teenagers because parts of their brain are still
developing, said Jordan Grafman, chief of cognitive neuroscience at the
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

multitasking in younger kids in my opinion can be detrimental," he
said. "One of the biggest problems about multitasking is that it’s
almost impossible to gain a depth of knowledge of any of the tasks you
do while you’re multitasking. And if it becomes normal to do, you’ll
likely be satisfied with very surface-level investigation and

Surface level investigation and knowledge? The comparison to our present problematic government is irresistible.

current generation of teens "is trying to do lots of multitasking
because they think it’s cool and less boring and because they have lots
of gadgets that help them be more successful at this," said David
Meyer, director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the
University of Michigan. "The belief is they’re getting good at this and
that they’re much better than the older generation at it and that
there’s no cost to their efficiency."

In the true spirit of ‘form follows function,’ media advertisers pace
their ads to the five-second sound bites teens respond to. But we all
get the message—or don’t get it and the results can be profound. When a
president repeats that al-Qaeda is attacking us in Iraq and al-Qaeda
attacked us on 9-11, the inescapable (and incorrect) conclusion that
Iraq caused the World Trade Center collapse is still out there, still
incredibly credible.

On the other hand, Nazi Germany proved that the sustained lie becomes
believable some seventy years ago, three generations before MTV and
YouTube. Sustained conversation and commentary is becoming more rare as
Bill O’Reilly shouting match-formats are ubiquitous.

Another Bill, William F. Buckley, Jr. would be a hard sell these
days, with his reasoned response to reasoned opponents. It’s not enough
to complain—we are where we are and that’s where we are.

— Multitasking is a managerial buzz-concept these days, a post-layoff
corporate assumption that the few can be made to do the work of many.
newly released results of scientific studies in multitasking indicate
that carrying on several duties at once may, in fact, reduce
productivity, not increase it.

"In some cases, you could be
wasting your employer’s time," says researcher Joshua Rubinstein,
Ph.D., formerly of the University of Michigan and now with the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) working on security issues. "And in
certain cases" of multitasking, Rubinstein says, "you could be risking
employers a dangerous outcome."

Mmmm. A different view and (thank god) it’s from a credentialed
researcher in the now time-zone instead of an old gaffer my age. I’ve
not heard it explained as a business plan to squeeze more much
from the same few. I do know that, as a nation, we are the hardest
working (at least measured by weekly hours) of the current list of
industrialized nations.

That’s another anomaly. Are we still an ‘industrialized’ nation as
we keep off-shoring our industry? And when does that reach a tipping

(CNN again) What are you doing right now as
you read this article? Ordering supplies for the office from your
distribution warehouse? Monitoring a screen for production equipment
performance? Getting an e-mail back to your colleagues in the Denver
office? Carrying on Instant Message conversations with three
co-workers? Writing up a report in Word for the meeting on Wednesday?
Eating the lunch you never have time to leave the desk for? Opening and
reading traditional mail? Filing an in-house memo to Tech Services
because your browser is acting up? Making a list of the clients you’re
expected to reach by close-of-business today? Trying to resize the
fonts in the company newsletter so it fits on one page?

Actually, I’m doing this commentary on the subject matter as it spins out from the Washington Post and CNN articles, Google-searching appropriate imagery, checking Catontable
additional sources and keeping an eye on the word-count while hoping to
maintain a certain amount of relevancy. Occasionally I am required to
grab the squirt-gun from my chair-side table and nail the cat, to
discourage it from walking across the dining-room table. What are you
telling me, that everything firing off within my visual, auditory and
mental parameters at one time has confused my focus? Actually, it’s
been going on for decades, minus the headphones. In those supposedly
quieter times, the information was so time-consuming to collect and
aggregate, a commentator was lucky to get off a single piece a week.

Which is why we used to have office doors that actually closed.

Ahhhhh. Now I see where you’re coming from.
Media comment;

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