Why the modern world is bad for your brain

In discussing information overload with Fortune 500 leaders, top scientists, writers, students, and small business owners, email comes up again and again as a problem. It’s not a philosophical objection to email itself, it’s the mind-numbing number of emails that come in. When the 10-year-old son of my neuroscience colleague Jeff Mogil (head of the Pain Genetics lab at McGill University) was asked what his father does for a living, he responded, “He answers emails.”…We feel obliged to answer our emails, but it seems impossible to do so and get anything else done.

Before email, if you wanted to write to someone, you had to invest some effort in it. You’d sit down with pen and paper, or at a typewriter, and carefully compose a message. There wasn’t anything about the medium that lent itself to dashing off quick notes without giving them much thought, partly because of the ritual involved, and the time it took to write a note, find and address an envelope, add postage, and take the letter to a mailbox. Because the very act of writing a note or letter to someone took this many steps, and was spread out over time, we didn’t go to the trouble unless we had something important to say. Because of email’s immediacy, most of us give little thought to typing up any little thing that pops in our heads and hitting the send button. And email doesn’t cost anything.

– Daniel J Levitin

Levitin’s article is a well written journey through the impact of multitasking on our bodies and thus our productivity.

I have written about (and linked to) issues around the speed at which we live and the impact technology has on us. Email might not ‘cost’ us much in the way of financial resources but me thinks it is costing our society a great deal. Levintin claims that through multitasking we do not receive information into the best part of the brain for long term storage which in turn discourages deep thought and reflection. Cause for thought.

Read the full article here.

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