Photo: Cyclonebill. Source: Wikipedia
A recent study indicated that multitasking with email, messaging, Facebook, and various other ways to communicate is changing the way we think and behave. We are undermining our ability to focus, and the immediate gratification that a constant feed provides is highly addictive. Other research shows that our brains get a little dopamine jolt when we get messages. It’s pleasurable and we want to do it again.
It’s becoming increasingly dangerous. Distracted driving is now the second-leading cause of accidents, after drunk driving, and quickly rising. In some states texting while driving is considered equivalent to drinking and driving. And it’s getting worse. The latest smartphones with their computing power and cameras have taken multi-functionality to a totally new level, with hundreds of thousands of possibilities.
It’s no surprise that our brains change in response to new stimuli. The brain is incredibly elastic, adapting its neural connections to facilitate new inputs. The connections in the brain are dynamic, with an almost infinite number of possible ways to be wired. Our brains grow new connections all the time, changing the way that we think, react, and behave.
Technological innovations have been altering the way we live for millennia. The invention of the alphabet made oral-tradition obsolete. Ever since Socrates, people have fretted that new ways of doing things would eclipse our traditions. The key is to save the essence of what’s valuable, even if we embrace it in with new media. Like reading Shakespeare on a Kindle. No one’s brain will get fried by that.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA