Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Attention Deficit Society

If you have the time this weekend, there is a very worthwhile video at the Milken Institute site from a conference held this week. The session linked to was titled, "The Attention Deficit Society: What Technology Is Doing to Our Brains," where four expert speakers addressed this subject matter:
Put down the iPad and pay attention: Technology may be rewiring your brain. Scientists say our ability to focus is being undermined by Twitter feeds, smartphones and other digital distractions. Many experts believe excessive use of technology can make users more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and even narcissistic. It may reduce the ability to process information and think deeply and creatively. Distracted drivers have become a menace on the roads. Even worse, tech-obsessed parents spend less quality time with their children, causing not only hurt feelings but potentially stunting a child's vocabulary and development. At the same time, studies show Internet users are more efficient at finding information, and gamers develop better visual acuity. Is the technology that was intended to make us more productive actually dumbing us down? Is its use in the classroom counterproductive? How does it change our culture and society in general?
That our brains are adapting to the constant use of technology is the contention of the first panellist, Nicholas Carr. Doesn't sound like rocket science when you put it that way, it sounds like common sense but I'm not sure how much time people actually spend thinking about how they are using their own technology - smart phones, iPads, iPods - and how it is really changing their lives and their own capacities. It is very intriguing to hear the entire panel speak about the issues set out above. One of the other professors on the panel is presently living in the dorm rooms at Stanford to observe the way students are using technology. The MIT professor is fascinating.

If you have time for it, even part of it, it's a good one. Our politics are affected by the way people are living with, using new technologies and getting changed by them. Anyone interested in crafting policies and messages going forward might be interested in giving it a look.