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Hooked On Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the can't-talk-now-texting dept.

Technology 180

Zecheus writes "In the New York Times: 'Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls, and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.'"

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undermined (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483296)

undermined by fp

Sorry, can you repeat that? (4, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483302)

I'm sorry, can you repeat that, I lost my train of thought. My crackberry just buzzed and I had to read an important email. By the way, tomorrow's department lunch is canceled.

Detailed analysis of why the article is wrong (4, Funny)

snowwrestler (896305) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483314)

As soon as I finish checking Techmeme and Twitter.

Re:Detailed analysis of why the article is wrong (3, Funny)

machine321 (458769) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484456)

Agreed, I find that... SQUIRREL!

Could someone summarize the summary? (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483320)

It was too long to read.

Read the article? Who are you kidding?

Also I think that... wait what? Hold on, I'll be right back

Re:Could someone summarize the summary? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32484052)

it is a fucking 5 page article on how we cannot focus on anything anymore. Did they seriously think most people have the time for a 5 page article? This is not a journal write up in Nature, this is an article in the NY Times, learn to me more succinct in your writing.

Re:Could someone summarize the summary? (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484070)

tl;dr

ft4u

Re:Could someone summarize the summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32484308)

ft4u

l

Post your comments while the story is fresh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483334)

There'll be a new story in about half an hour.

Basically (3, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483342)

If you want to be good at multi-tasking, practice multi-tasking.
If you want to be good at focusing, practice focusing.
If you want to be good at both, practice both.

There is no false dichotomy that you can only be good at one or the other, and neither one comes naturally. By nature we are only good at focusing on whatever attracts us emotionally in the moment, focusing on boring things, or multi-tasking on various boring things both take practice. So do what you want and stop worrying.

Re:Basically (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483516)

There is no false dichotomy that you can only be good at one or the other

Does that mean that there is a true dichotomy? Seems like that would contradict most of the rest of your post.

Re:Basically (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484100)

There is no false dichotomy that you can only be good at one or the other

Does that mean that there is a true dichotomy?

Well it stands to reason that there's either a false dichotomy or there's a true one.

Re:Basically (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484368)

Or there's no dichotomy at all.

Miaaaaaow (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484684)

Or there's one that's both false and true, but you don't know until you open the box.

Re:Basically (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483564)

And what proof do you have to back up the last claim? Show me a car that can win the Indy 500 and is the most fuel efficient of all cars. Your statement is just words without testing it to prove it is valid.

Re:Basically (1)

Dragee (881700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484110)

I hope the "insightful" mod is in regard to the lack of proof, and not the ridiculous car analogy. The biology and functionality of the human brain is several orders of magnitude more complex than the mechanics of an automobile, to say nothing of the fact that fuel efficiency is completely off-topic, even as an analogy. That's comparing apples and solid rocket boosters.

Re:Basically (1)

Okind (556066) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484154)

"Show me a car that can win the Indy 500 and is the most fuel efficient of all cars."

To be good at something does not mean you'll be rated among the best. And that is what is takes to even have a chance at winning the Indy 500. Or to be the most fuel efficient of all cars -- by definition of the word "most" an extreme case.

BUT: by practicing you can actually be good at both multi-tasking and focusing. Obviously you'll not be the best at either, because there's always someone with more talent and time spent on either multi-tasking or focussing (at the exclusion of the other).

Re:Basically (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484752)

By fuel efficient, do you mean in distance driven per fuel burned or power produced per fuel burned?

Re:Basically (1, Flamebait)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32485112)

In general, it's poor form to reply to a post asking for evidence, without giving even a reason why you think it might be false. The way you did it adds nothing to the conversation.

Nevertheless: here [slashdot.org] and here [slashdot.org] . The thing is, focusing on one thing is just a subset of focusing on many things. I don't see why you even think that a person who can focus well on many things would not be able to focus well on one thing, unless your only experience is with people who focus on many things, but don't do it very well.

Re:Basically (5, Insightful)

EL_mal0 (777947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483590)

There is no false dichotomy that you can only be good at one or the other, and neither one comes naturally

But there is research suggesting that you can't be good at multitasking, or rather very few people actually are. Link [psychologytoday.com] . Even though talking on the phone and driving isn't necessarily what this article is talking about, I think it does fall into your classification of "boring things".

It would be interesting to see some research actually showing whether you can improve your multitasking skills.

Re:Basically (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483862)

Right the brain is fairly plastic and certainly can and does orient itself around certain work loads. It even at least while we are fairly young seems able to reorient iteself. IE if you change jobs from something high interrupt to something more focus oriented after a few months you can adapt. I went from Network Admin to programming for instance and than back.

Each of those transitions tooks some some. In my personal experience I do not think my brain could arrange itself into a form that would be good at both at the same time; good enough perhaps but not as good as doing one or the other.

Re:Basically (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484492)

Good at multitasking...very few people actually are.

I don't believe this 2.5% of so-called supertaskers are in any way better at doing multiple things at once. Everyone knows it's possible to multitask, so long as each task isn't too demanding, but that's not the issue. We can drive and talk at the same time after practice, but not so much when just learning to drive. The same is going to be true of people who are extremely socially skilled and confident and talking on the phone to a friend: it's easier for them to do that without much processing power, leaving their brain more free to handle other things like unexpected road hazards.

Re:Basically (2, Interesting)

EL_mal0 (777947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484768)

But that study wasn't done with people who were just learning to drive, so I think your point has a little less weight. I think this bit from the article I linked is an apt response:

Researchers Jason Watson and David L. Strayer go on to say that "inattention blindness associated with cell phone conversations makes drivers unaware of their own driving impairments." That's research-speak for "Hey, I am not even aware of my unawareness while gabbing with my pals. I am special. I can do this!"

Re:Basically (1, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484688)

I can tell you my thought and experience, though others may not agree with me.

I have found that becoming good at multi-tasking is a combination of two things: becoming good at focusing, and becoming good at quickly switching focus. The guy in the article didn't seem like a multi-tasker, he seemed like someone with ADD. He had trouble focusing on anything.

So, as an example, to minimize switching times, you can do things like having different projects open on different desktops. Choose to work on one, and block out all thought of the other, until it is time to work on it. If an email comes, focus completely on the email until it is done, then go back to your other project. Whatever it is, focus completely on it. You need to detach yourself from the projects emotionally so they are not still nagging on you when you are not working on them. This is similar to leaving work at work, and not worrying about it when you get home.

Another example would be driving, when you first start driving, there is so much to do, it is hard to focus on it all. But soon you can switch easily between looking at the speedometer, checking your mirrors, looking in front, checking the temperature gauge, etc. It isn't so much that you are focusing on multiple things at once so much as you've gotten good at switching between them all, and can do them all without any trouble. I suspect if you could fit texting into the rotation in short enough increments of time, you could do that too, but I don't think you can divide the task of texting into such small pieces.

Professional Starcraft players are the same way, if you look at what they do, it is amazing how they can focus efficiently on so many things at once. Also, the first time you try to do it yourself, it is exhausting and hard to even do a quarter of what they do. Then slowly, after practicing, you can begin to build units continually while assigning them to different places, then you are able to do it while simultaneously fighting a battle, then you are able to fight two battles simultaneously. They way to do it, once again, is to switch focus between all the tasks.

So this is some anecdotal (and I think reasonable) evidence that multi-tasking is doable. It would be interesting to see some studies done along these lines.

Re:Basically (2, Interesting)

anegg (1390659) | more than 4 years ago | (#32485178)

Brains have a limited amount of "attention" resource to focus on problems, just like computers have a limited amount of CPU time to give to processes. Multi-tasking on the brain is similar to multi-tasking on a CPU. You can do it, but it does impair efficiency. The more frequently you switch tasks, the more switching overhead you incur. Perhaps you can improve your task-switching speed to minimize overhead.

The process of learning to drive is a bit different (I think) than normal multi-tasking demands. In driving, you are training your brain to take care of certain functions without conscious attention - developing low-level subroutines (checking gauges, mirrors, monitoring distance to the cars around you). To the extent that your "multi-tasking" can involve tasks that can be done subconsciously, you can probably improve your multi-tasking ability by training your brain to use low-level subroutines.

I don't think of "multi-tasking" as the development of semi-autonomous capabilities like I describe above. To me, multi-tasking is when you are switching conscious attention from one thing to another, such as having a conversation with one person while undertaking another focused task. To a certain extent, you can balance the attention you pay to one or the other, but there is probably a cost. Your focused task may proceed more slowly, or you may realize at some point that although you have been automatically responding to your conversational partner, you haven't really been "hearing" what they are saying. If your focused task is "driving your car in traffic" I hope the impact is to the latter rather than the former.

With this in mind, I think there are variations in multi-tasking ability among people, and I think that it may be possible to achieve some improvements in multi-tasking abilities through practice, but in general the article matches my experience and beliefs. I think that multi-tasking may feel like more is being accomplished but actual measured performance will suffer. If some of the tasks involve synchronous interaction with other people, the multi-taskers perception of improved experience will probably come at a cost to the other folks with whom the multi-tasker is interacting.

Re:Basically (1)

Dragee (881700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483658)

Honest question: what activities are recommended for improving focus? I've identified a general decline since high school in my ability to focus on things that aren't highly stimulating. I did some brief searching a while back, and most of the advice just boiled down to, "make a conscious effort to not let distractions (internal or external) break your focus, and over time, your ability to focus will improve." I've wondered if there are specific activities (marathon video game sessions?) that can more easily hone one's ability to focus. An analogy would be (for me) riding a bicycle to get exercise. I just generally enjoy heading out on a bike and exploring, so as a side effect, my physical fitness improves. Can I find a similar solution for improving focus?

Re:Basically (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483784)

Good question. I wouldn't think that video game sessions help, as you probably enjoy the process and find it stimulating, so focusing is no problem. You gotta find something that definitely needs focus to succeed, is annoying (to you) in the process so you keep being tempted to lose focus, but is rewarding in the result so you have enough motivation to stick with it. I don't think there is a general solution - you gotta find something that fulfills the above criteria for you.

Re:Basically (1)

the-empty-string (106157) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484130)

You gotta find something that definitely needs focus to succeed, is annoying (to you) in the process so you keep being tempted to lose focus, but is rewarding in the result so you have enough motivation to stick with it.

Playing piano music on sight is the perfect example. It is a tremendously computationally intensive task and requires a very high degree of parallel processing. However, while one will definitely improve with arduous practice, it is unlikely it will translate into increased multitasking ability in other situations.

Re:Basically (1)

God'sDuck (837829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483834)

Honest question: what activities are recommended for improving focus?

I've noticed the same, and I would say: something along the lines of prayer and meditation, and maybe reading long-form books. Anything like video games does not count, because what you are doing changes each second. I'm even suspicious of some traditional things like gardening, since I tend to garden like I play on my computer -- weeding, pruning, pondering, picking, watering, weeding...something new every minute. It's amazingly easy to subvert something linear into something disorganized.

Re:Basically (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483924)

I'd suggest a martial art. Also helps you keep fit, teaches you self defence, helps self-esteem...

Re:Basically (2, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483966)

Ask any chess player and they will definitely have advice on how to focus better.

I can tell what I have found in my experience. Definitely exercise, it helps calm a lot of crazy distractions in your head. Get enough sleep and eat well, too. Alekhine said, "A brain without sugar is no brain" and Bobby Fischer would drink fruit juice to help him focus.

From there, try to get rid of things that will distract you. Sometimes they are surprising things, like not being clear what you are trying to do. Tal mentions that one time during a game, in a difficult position, he was having trouble focusing and thought about something else for nearly 20 minutes; he just couldn't force himself to focus. Then he realized that the position was too deep, it was impossible for any human to calculate all the possible branches. Once he realized that, his goal changed, and he was able to focus again. So the 'distraction' in that case was the fact that his task was impossible.

I really do find playing chess useful for this, because you know you haven't been focusing as soon as you lose a piece. It can help you notice when you are losing focus and try to diagnose the problem, and figure out ways to work around them.

once you've mastered chess try go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32484158)

once you've mastered chess try go. well, anyway, as a chess enthusiast i found go quite mind expanding. when you can handle playing on a full size board after working your way up from a 9x9, 13x13 ... or just make the jump from small to the full 19x19, when you make that adaption its quite a moment of satori. initially i was incapable of seeing the whole board shape, fuseki, and its still what really interests me, but you have to keep ontop of the micro too. i really feel that go will definitely improve your ability to focus. other than that, the other thing that has coincided with improved focus in my life has been semesters of several proof based mathematical courses, analysis/group theory. that kind of math really involves creativity, well it does when you need to solve problems and actually apply the theory (even if there is nobody setting assignments) which i think is required to really benefit.

Re:Basically (3, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484412)

Do you play chess in a room full of annoying co-workers who don't get the middle bit (the electric signals and cables) about how telephones work? Or with a toddler whose main hobby is using you as a tackle dummy? Or a spouse who sees any moment of silence as an aural blank canvas just begging to be worked upon?

Because if you don't it's going to be fuck all use helping you focus in the real world.

Re:Basically (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483838)

If you want to be good at over-simplistic thinking, practice over-simplistic thinking.

Re:Basically (1)

welcher (850511) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484604)

So you didn't read the article. there is a whole section entitled "The Myth of Multitaking" [nytimes.com] quoting research that shows your argument to be total shit.

step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (4, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483346)

We've conditioned ourselves to stop doing almost everything in order to answer a phonecall. Even if we have no idea who's calling, we are prepared to interrupt most activities and (unforgivably) most people in order to speak to a little voice who almost certainly only called because they want something.

I say, let them wait. If it's important they can leave a message - although there's nothing that a normal person can tell us that can't bear being delayed for an hour or two. If they are prepared to do some work themselves, they can TEXT you, instead.

Re:step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (5, Insightful)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483500)

We've conditioned ourselves to stop doing almost everything in order to answer a phonecall. Even if we have no idea who's calling, we are prepared to interrupt most activities and (unforgivably) most people in order to speak to a little voice who almost certainly only called because they want something.

I say, let them wait. If it's important they can leave a message - although there's nothing that a normal person can tell us that can't bear being delayed for an hour or two. If they are prepared to do some work themselves, they can TEXT you, instead.

Exactly.

The problem isn't the technology itself, it is our reaction to it.

We've built some kind of always-on, instant gratification communication system. Folks expect to be able to instantly communicate with basically anyone about basically anything at basically any time.

I get bombarded all day long with phone calls, instant messages, emails, whatever. Many of these are just useless status updates or questions that they could have answered themselves with about 30 seconds of thought... But the impulse is to reach out and touch someone.

And my impulse is to stop whatever I'm doing and respond to the phone call/text message/IM/email/whatever.

It is horribly distracting, but I can't really blame anyone but myself.

Re:step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (2, Insightful)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483632)

I fixed this a while ago.

By not having a phone, or a TV. Instant messages can be ignored. If it's a bill it can come via Snail Mail, and email is checked once when I get home, and then again right before I go to bed.

The problem is, as previously stated, our reaction to the interception. We do have a cell phone, but I can count the number of people that have the number on one hand. Even then, it's for emergencies and checking on children.

And seriously, there's no point in risking your life, or anyone elses for that matter, trying to call your Boss on the cell while driving to tell them you're going to be 5 minutes late. We dealt with no cell phones or instant contact before cell phones. Try to remember what that was like, and lets get back there again. Buggers can wait!

- Dan.

Re:step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483896)

Haha, yes. I had a similar epiphany quite a while ago so it's refreshing that other people are feeling the same way. Maybe 10 years ago now, I was at a friend's house and we were catching up with some people on IRC, then we decided to go to the shop for snacks, I was actually concerned that he had four or five private chat whindows open with messages waiting and he didn't even put in an afk message - then it suddenly occurred to me, why the hell are we shaping our lives around the demands of technology? Those four or five people won't be offended if we take ten minutes out to go buy munchies, and if they are they're probably not the kind of people you want to have in your social circle anyway - once you realise this it's very liberating, especially when it comes to mobiles, mine used to be a constant interruption but now I decide when I have time to talk or when I'm busy. When a friend genuinely needs me, I'll go out of my way to make time for them, the rest of the time I'm not prepared to chase around after my various devices. Some people still think it's odd when a call comes through to me and I'll flip it to silent and let it go to answerphone, like the person calling is using technology and is therefore much more deserving of my attention than the person I'm in the same physical space as. Crazy.

Re:step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (3, Interesting)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483916)

Ya, I have similar habits, which is funny because I'm considered the 'tech' guy in my family. I have no cable, leave my landline unplugged (to stop annoying solicitors), and leave my cell at home on silent. Email is about as close as I get to 'instant messaging' nowadays. And this helps me focus on whatever tasks need my immediate attention (like commenting on slashdot :D).
My family (parents and siblings), interestingly enough, finds this annoying because they want instant access. I think because I spend more time around computers than them, I'm a bit disenchanted as to the utility, or life-quality improvements yet-another-device will add to my life.

Re:step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484642)

I have no cable, leave my landline unplugged (to stop annoying solicitors)

Don't you have call barristering?

Re:step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32484978)

The nice thing about cell phones (or at least a subset of them) is that you can silence them without having to answer them. Doing that for a land line doesn't work very well but with most cellphones these days you can check to see who's calling, make a decision and silence it and call back later when it's convenient for you. Removes so much stress.

Re:step #1, -- Stop leting Tech define YOU! (1)

Azarman (1730212) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484024)

This will always be a problem with instant communication,

However, I have NEVER let my mobile phone dictate my social interaction, for example if my phone goes when my friends and I are chatting I DO NOT ANSWER IT, they see this action and if they then call me and I dont pick up the assume I am currently busy. This dynamic has taken rather a lot to work in to my every day life since most people expect instant reply but its now understood that if it is important leave a VM or text message and I will get back to you when I can.

This also works with Email, Best practice is to only look at your mail once every hour instead of always letting it run how your day goes.

Take control people and stop letting technology and the people around you decide what you do and when :/

Re:step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483576)

"We've conditioned ourselves to stop doing almost everything in order to answer a phonecall. "

In the immortal words of Tonto when surrounded by hostile warriors: "Who's "we", Kemosabe?"

I direct all practical commo to EMAIL because I DEMAND non-synchronous communication with a trail. I DEMAND the time to reply with a composed response, and I will have that. (I'm polite, use passive resistance where expedient, but generally "either use email or fuck off".) I don't care to text, I'm away from the landline, and my cell reception officially sucks unless I want to talk to you.

I don't do conversations to set a mood. Pass the info and "clear the channel".

Modern comms cut both ways. Use them to get what you want instead of yielding to others, but sell what you want as a way to improve their experience. (Lying when useful, fuck 'em.)

Re:step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (0, Offtopic)

drummerboybac (1003077) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483630)

I bet you are a RIOT at parties :-D

Re:step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483662)

We've conditioned ourselves to stop doing almost everything in order to answer a phonecall.

The PolygamousRanchMother forbid the PolygamousRanchSiblings and myself from answering the phone during dinner. Her comment was, "if it's important, they'll call back."

Today, I appreciate that training. Especially when I am having a one-on-one with somebody, and the phone rings, and the person jumps as if startled, and that life on our planet will cease to exist if he or she does not answer the phone.

The coolest execs or distinguished engineers that I have met, just take a quick glance at the phone to see who is calling, and then gets back to the business that we were discussing.

Re:step #1, ignore the phone when it rings (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483874)

some people are. I gladly let the phone ring, or if I am busy I reach over and click silence. I "trained" myself that the phone is my tool and it will do my bidding. not the other way around.

I find it odd how many love to enslave themselves to an object.

Are you sure about it this time? (2, Funny)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483350)

I was convinced I couldn't concentrate thanks to Toxoplasmosis [economist.com] ... But I guess if I managed to get through an entire Economist article, I can't be doing *too* bad. Maybe it's just hypochondria?

Right topic, wrong answer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483356)

I find that concentrating is very easy. Sitting down and working out a specific task, even if I'm jumping all over the place. How-ever, paying attention to what I'm actually doing, spending my life in-front of a glowing screen for reward units, is more difficult to notice.

My favorite line in TFA (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483362)

"This is your brain on computers". It brought back memories of a funny poster they used to have:

This is your brain.
This is your brain on drugs.
This is your brain on drugs with a side of bacon.

Re:My favorite line in TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483470)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51%2BTLwDZxhL._SS500_.jpg

Re:My favorite line in TFA (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483770)

My favourite paragraph:

In high school, he balanced computers, basketball and a romance with Brenda, a cheerleader with a gorgeous singing voice. He studied too, with focus, uninterrupted by e-mail. “I did my homework because I needed to get it done,” he said. “I didn’t have anything else to do.”

Huh? Poor show, Brenda!

Focus? (5, Funny)

scottwilkins (1224922) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483364)

I have no problems with foc.. Squirrel!

Re:Focus? (2, Funny)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484062)

Apparently the average persons attention span is

Focus (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483382)

I could focus if only Slashdot would stop posting these (very) short bursts of information...

Obligatory XKCD (4, Funny)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483406)

Addiction [xkcd.com]

Re:Obligatory XKCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483714)

best xkcd ever!

My thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483420)

The fact is .. hold on... the facts are ... wait a sec, gotta take this. Now, where was I? Oh, right. Slashdot. What the fickle finger of fate am I doing here?

Article (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483448)

tl;dr

I don't buy it (0, Redundant)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483450)

Totally ridiculous. I ... hold on, gotta take this call.

Paying a Mental Price. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483452)

Scientists and everything they say undermine my ability to focus.

I agree (4, Interesting)

pcraven (191172) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483494)

I used to be a good programmer until I got into management. The flood of information, calls, and e-mails that came in seriously did a number on my brain. It felt like it was being remapped.

I've gotten out of that field, but I still feel the effects from it. Now I've taken to learning Russian. I think I enjoy it because of the concentration required.

In Soviet Russia, (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483898)

Russian is better than management!

Re:I agree (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484028)

managers learn to use software tools to prioritize. Outlook calendar, tasks, MS Project and the others. this is about the ADHD people that think they are the borg, but they are not. and making things worse for themselves. it's like a small family business i recently dealt with. one guy they hired was very overworked and they needed another person. but they probably don't want to hire someone because they think it's money out of their pocket instead of growing the business. so i gave my business to someone that gave me better service

Re:I agree (1)

bmwEnthusiast (1384289) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484064)

In Soviet Russia, the phone answers you!

Re:I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32485032)

So then you understand the phrase: "In Soviet Russia, Russian remaps you!"

all these always connected people make me laugh (2, Interesting)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483584)

i carry a blackberry and an iphone and think tech is great, but some of these people that are trying to do 5 things at once look like ADHD or OCD cases that can't do one thing right. they get halfway done with something until the next email or IM comes in and it's off to the next thing.

i don't even have the corporate IM client installed because i think it's annoying. worst thing is to be constantly interrupted while writing SQL code or reading an interesting article by someone asking about something not important that can easily be done over email. where i'll read it when i have the chance. i already have all kinds of alerts set up for a real emergency that needs to be looked at right away. the worst people are those that want to call on the phone about things that can be done over email and need to have a written record of communication

it still amazes me that we're in a software dev reboot where our most used OS's and software are going from multi-gigabyte sizes to less than 1GB on mobile devices. and yet it's still full of bugs. sometimes worse than the bloat of desktop software. this may be a reason why. people don't concentrate and are always jumping from one thing to the next.

Re:all these always connected people make me laugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483822)

It works both ways though. I work in a small shop for a mid-sized company. I live or die by e-mails when I'm at work, which are naturally tied into my phone. That quickdraw response to messages is built in out of habit now.

However, prioritizing is the name of game. People multitask all the time. It just takes on different forms. Any task can be honed with time.

If you wanna completely throw off this study, lock a 13 year old in a white room filled with tech...although, that mind get your some jailtime.

Ability to focus lost long ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483592)

Because we already left school, and don't spend our lives in an academic lab

Time to catch up with the rest of the world, little miss ivory tower

Research Suggests Brain Has a 2-Task Limit (5, Informative)

PatPending (953482) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483610)

In related news:

Research Suggests Brain Has a 2-Task Limit for Multitasking [slashdot.org]

Summary:

"The brain is set up to manage two tasks, but not more, a new study suggests. That's because, when faced with two tasks, a part of the brain known as the medial prefrontal cortex (MFC) divides so that half of the region focuses on one task and the other half on the other task. This division of labor allows a person to keep track of two tasks pretty readily, but if you throw in a third, things get a bit muddled. 'What really the results show is that we can readily divide tasking. We can cook, and at the same time talk on the phone, and switch back and forth between these two activities,' said study researcher Etienne Koechlin of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France. 'However, we cannot multitask with more than two tasks.'"

Re:Research Suggests Brain Has a 2-Task Limit (1)

PatPending (953482) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483720)

Replying to self:

Ah, so that's what "MFC" stands for.

And given that it divides half and half, it explains why programs written with it would not support more than two simultaneous threads.

Re:Research Suggests Brain Has a 2-Task Limit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32484232)

You set them up... and... you knock them down.

Re:Research Suggests Brain Has a 2-Task Limit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32485184)

Clearly those scientists haven't seen a Korean Starcraft Tournament.

This is absolutely true. (2, Insightful)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483646)

I used to work a job that require me to be on-call 24/7 and I was tethered by these kinds of gadgets... I kind of burnt out and took a job not requiring on-call at all and I also ditched a smartphone altogether. I use a plain Samsung phone and I have an iPod Touch. That's it now. I'm far happier even though I'm less "connected" and it isn't just because of the job change.

Life is essentially one big distraction these days and no one knows how to just enjoy what it happening. People have to contantly be tweeting or on Facebook or snapping pics and talking about the concert/meal/vacation/whatever *while* it is happening. They barely actually enjoy the event because it is instead spent telling everyone else about it. This is going to have a terrible impact long-term and already is. People are more easily frustrated and distracted and have lost the ability to just singularly enjoy something. It's a shame.

Re:This is absolutely true. (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483856)

They barely actually enjoy the event because it is instead spent telling everyone else about it. This is going to have a terrible impact long-term and already is.

How long have cameras been widely available to the public? There have been people with that character fault for at least a century and we're still mostly OK.

Your kid is playing soccer and you're watching instead of fiddling with your camera? Hell yeah I'm enjoying the game.

We're at (insert scenic outlook/cultural event) and you're looking instead of fiddling with your camera? Hell yeah I'm enjoying the view.

Despite the VERY LOUD claims by the smartphone'd / camera'd folks whom think their lifestyle is the ONLY outlook on life that could possibly exist, the rest of us disagree and we are absolutely loving life...

Re:This is absolutely true. (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483946)

I understand where you are coming from since we are in the same boat... and if you only hang with similarly-minded folks it would seem that we are all "mostly" OK... but that isn't the case. I worked for some time at a private university and when you actually spend time with and in close proximity to the youth you realize it is not "OK" it isn't a minority, it is an overwhelming majority. Easily 75-80%.

Re:This is absolutely true. (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484118)

Well, I hate to respond with the weirdest ever combination of Social Darwinism, AA theory, and Buddhism, but either:

1) It's working for them, in which case that's nice for them, and nice for me as long as they stop trying to recruit me into their bizarre worldview.

2) Or life isn't working for them, its all eternally reoccurring suffering and slow death by their own bad choices, in which case you have to have faith they'll admit they have a problem, then find their way thru it, perhaps with our help, in order to join the rest of "us" whom are having fun with life.

So, I'd still stand by its "OK" as long as they shut up and leave me alone. And get off my lawn.

Why it's wro oo, a comment field (3, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483830)

TFA is wrong because
What does submit button do?

Future Shock (4, Informative)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483854)

See Future Shock [wikipedia.org] by Alvin Toffler:

Toffler argues that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a "super-industrial society". This change will overwhelm people, the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving them disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation" – future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems were symptoms of the future shock. In his discussion of the components of such shock, he also coined the term information overload.

Published in 1970 -- based on a 1965 article -- and still timely today.

Re:Future Shock (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484032)

Published in 1970 -- based on a 1965 article -- and still timely today.

Toffler is pretty much obsolete. He never really understood the shifts the labor market.

Toffler's theory was the middle class would become rich by taking lower-upper class type jobs and educations, leading to the stress of how to spend all that money on things they don't really culturally understand. Kind of like watching folks flail around randomly during the housing bubble run-up when they suddenly got more money than they could handle, but on a larger scale. You could summarize his book to an analysis of the cultural stresses of an upwardly mobile society.

The way it turned out, is the jobs disappeared. Everyone but the extremely rich is poorer. Rather than stressing about which ipod to buy, and what that means culturally, for most people, the stress is the more traditional concerns but with more financial pressure, like how to pay the mortgage on a walmart greeter salary, or wouldn't it be nice to afford health care. You could summarize reality to being a stressed downwardly mobile society.

His "shattering stress and disorientation" turned out to be "I lost my job and there are no jobs in my field in this country anymore" rather than his idea of "how will I fit into the country club conspicuous consumption crowd". Or the "shattering stress and disorientation" of "we've downsized your five person department to ... you, and you get to do all the work yourself. Now hurry up and meet the growth goals or there's four people in line to replace you"

Re:Future Shock (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484252)

I agree with your assessment that Toffler got it wrong when forecasting shifts in labor.

But I believe he was right about "information overload" -- too much, too fast -- and the accelerating rate of technological and social change.

Re:Future Shock (2, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484818)

Toffler's theory was the middle class would become rich by taking lower-upper class type jobs and educations, leading to the stress of how to spend all that money on things they don't really culturally understand.

...

The way it turned out, is the jobs disappeared. Everyone but the extremely rich is poorer. Rather than stressing about which ipod to buy...

Poorer, but buying iPods? Future Shock was writing in a period where something like a portable music player was a pipe dream. Now everyone has one. We all also have cell phones, dvd and blueray players.. We can feed ourselves for a month on one to two days of salary.

We are poor in the sense that you are a jealous ass that doesnt know how well off you are.

The reality is that you are also wrong because your criticism is two decades late. He wasn't writing about now.. Future Shock is about what eventually happened in the 80's and early 90's. Its not relevant today because we are in the middle of the 3rd wave.. you are so informed by the global communication system he predicted, and so rich just as predicted, that you do not even worry about making the wrong choice when buying a piece of technology. There are plenty of good choices and you can afford all of them. Its hard to fuck it up badly. Thus, you don't worry.

Technology is now hyper-disposable because we are insanely rich. Period. You are rich. Individuals in our society throws away the equivalent of a billion 1950's room-sized mainframe computers as if it was nothing. You do it. I do it. We all do it.

He did write a books about now, and we are in the overlap of The Third Wave and Power Shift.

Nations have less and less control. Multinationals have more and more control. Predicted. Even the rise of the global communication network, and the exponential growth of the value of information.. predicted. Slashdot is all about putting up articles about Intelectual Property and so forth.. the very shit he predicted would be a defining concern of this age.

Re:Future Shock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32484290)

Aaarg! I've spent all my mod points by this point. :-(
Mod parent up!

Harry Kahne's Multiple Mentality Course (2, Informative)

orthicviper (1800010) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483886)

the best multi-tasker i ever heard about was Harry Kahne. he wrote a book that he claims could help anyone do lots of feats simultaneously. he's worth reading about if you want to be impressed! http://www.rexresearch.com/kahne/kahne.htm [rexresearch.com]

According to one researcher (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483940)

..."There is no doubt that technology which is only marginally related influences behavior. We've always had a more or less informal delineation of clubs into "hunting club", "fighting club" and "hit woman over head to catch her club". If one morning we happened to grab the wrong club, what would come of it other than some good natured ribbing from our fellows? But now, with the advent of painting the cave walls with streaks of dye and colored rock powders, creating images of incidents from everyday cave life, one never knows when one might be captured in such an image. Having one's soul swallowed whole by these images is problematic enough, but to be encased in an image showing one bringing home a gazelle while carrying the woman hunting club, well that's the origin of the sort of social upheaval that results in fragmentation of groupings and loss of contact with our cultural mores." The investigator's researcher partner only added "Hyuck hyuck hyuck, oh that Fred sure can get wound up when you get him talking.

Obligatory "Correlation != Causation" post (3, Insightful)

DCheesi (150068) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483950)

The two main studies highlighted in the article both suffer from a sort of self-selection bias: the people in the "heavy-multitasking" group(s) are there because of a chosen lifestyle. Perhaps the reason they multitask so much in everyday life is *because* they can't filter out information as well as the average person?

They can't help but be constantly distracted, so they suffer the downsides of multitasking whether they use technology or not. Deliberate multitasking might actually represent a coping mechanism for them, saturating their awareness with tasks and information sources that are at least somewhat productive, thus leaving no room for truly random distractions. Or perhaps priding themselves on their "multitasking skills" is just a way to paper over their inherent weakness and re-frame it as a positive attribute?

Re:Obligatory "Correlation != Causation" post (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484842)

Not only that, they don't sound like multi-taskers so much as people with ADD. The first guy doesn't seem to be choosing to multi-task, he seems unable to ignore any stimulus that comes his way. A new email comes? He must check it. Interesting news story? Must read it. That can be a serious problem.

Re:Obligatory "Correlation != Causation" post (1)

nebular (76369) | more than 4 years ago | (#32485074)

Welcom to the world of ADHD.

We either see it all, or only see the one, and most often we have no control over which.

Did anyone read the title as: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32483994)

Hookers with gadgets, and paying a mental price... *shudder*

No time to read this? Read this. (3, Interesting)

PatPending (953482) | more than 4 years ago | (#32483996)

This article is immensely helpful (print link with pop-up):

No time to read this? Read this. [wsj.com]

Of the three techniques mentioned, the "Pomodoro Technique" works best for me:

I start each day by making a log of things to do, then tackle each in 25-minute intervals called Pomodoros. When a Pomodoro is over, I mark an X on the log next to the item I am working on, then take a refreshing 3- to 5-minute break. Nothing must be allowed to interrupt a Pomodoro. If co-workers barge in, Mr. Cirillo advises trying to defer the conversation.

Re:No time to read this? Read this. (2, Insightful)

mmaniaci (1200061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32485264)

Waste. Of. Time.

The method is based on the idea that time-management tools and techniques should be simple

But the reality is that all aspects of time management are not simple, and any plan you make at the beginning of the day will change dramatically by the time you leave the office. Like he mentioned in the paragraph you quoted, if a co-worker barges in, your entire plan is ruined. You have to spend a few minutes rescheduling with the co-worker and then get back into your work... all before the 25min timer goes "ding." What if your boss drops a very important, time-sensitive task in your lap? "Sorry sir, I made a list this morning and it can't be changed without messing up my crackpot time-management schedule." The overhead to this method seems absolutely ridiculous, and IMHO everyone should come up with their own techniques for handling their work day. Buying into internet theories day after day is probably the reason why those mentioned in TFA are so incapable of concentration.

500 bucks for an iPad? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484178)

500 bucks for an iPad? Now that price really is mental!

more on multitasking limitations (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32484236)

Not only are human brains limited to 2 tasks by the medial prefrontal cortex, some grey matter subsystems are not reentrant.
Try these simple experiments:
1) Draw a cirlce with the right hand while drawing a triangle with the left hand.
2) Start to make clockwise circles with one of your feet. While continuing the foot action, draw a circle in the counter clockwise direction.
YMMV

I read the 5-page NYT article first (1)

Protoslo (752870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484240)

I had to slog my way through all five pages of the dull anecdote-filled profile of some random internet entrepreneur just so I could deride it on Slashdot. There are a handful of studies cited in TFA, all of which have been reported on before, and none of which actually establish the premise of the article. My primary conclusion was that the boring subject of the article (and possibly the rest of his family) would benefit a lot more from pharmaceutical amphetamines than from junking his Blackberry.

Training yourself reall is the key (3, Insightful)

Rastl (955935) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484286)

Caller ID + voice mail means I can choose which calls to take at any time.

Cell phone profiles mean I can also choose which types of communication actually alert me and which ones are silent until I decide to check my phone.

Not having a Crackberry means that I check e-mail at a time of my choosing.

The "Later" button on my cell phone means that I can postpone reading that text until I have the time and/or inclination to do so.

Not having a smart phone means that I can be away from the internet and all that it distracts.

Not being logged onto a chat program means that I again have control over how people contact me.

It seems a lot of the problems being described are self-inflicted by our fascination with technology and being connected. It's a conscious decision to disconnect at my convenience and then to stick with it. Being 'always on' is the default state for so many people that they have no concept of not immediately picking up a call, answering a text, seeing an e-mail or doing any of the other things that distract from the task at hand. Multi-tasking is not easy nor do you get the same results as when you're concentrating on a single task unless it's all fluff.

I agree, but people (and their abilities) evolve (1)

curmudgeous (710771) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484302)

I used to be all about the tech, but as I age I'm finding not only that I can't keep up, but that I don't want to keep up.

Discussions like this remind me of a documentary I saw once about the building of the Erie Canal. It was reported that people along the route hated it when it first opened because it made their lives "too hectic." Barges along the canal averaged at a blistering 3 mph. :)

I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32484362)

...I forgot what I was thinking about. Where am I anyways?

Balance is key (2, Insightful)

adosch (1397357) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484476)

FTFA, IMHO, the guy clearly has an addiction to the internet. He just needs to find a balance between his digital life and his real life. I find slinging code, programming AVR microcontrollers, hacking around in Linux, ect. ect. ect. on top of being a UNIX/Linux sysadmin for a living to be quite the wet dream, but it doesn't consume my life. Who wouldn't overwhelmed with hundreds of e-mails in their inbox on a daily basis? I know I am when I'm gone even a long weekend at work. The problem is technologies like text messages, e-mail and instant messaging get abused and often, more times than none, used for the completely wrong situations. What could be solved in a simple hall way conversation gets exacerbated in some bloated, word-smithed e-mail or instant message. Everyone does it for CYA, I get it. They think our brains are going to be re-wired is a big problem? Look at how real, human social interaction has tappered off the face of the earth. Kids next to eachother text one another in the mall. People refuse to pick up a phone and talk to someone because they want their Facebook profile to tell them all the information without any contact.

I mean, anyone wanting to buy my xyz-online company better have met me in person and at least take me out for dinner to discuss the proposal or I'd pass it off as another Nigerian e-mail scam.

c0m (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32484546)

Sounds like ADHD (2, Insightful)

nebular (76369) | more than 4 years ago | (#32484760)

Sounds so very similar to ADHD. Only those of us with ADHD aren't just distracted by gadgets, we're potentially distracted by everything. Hell I get distracted by the array of spices in my cupboard (when I'm supposed to be preparing dinner, to the frustration of my wife)

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