Wednesday 16 February 2011

Never in human history...

"To coin (or rather, purloin) a phrase, 
never in human history has so much knowledge been available and accessible, and yet so little curiosity or effort been expended by so many in response to it."

Rob Nugent, "The Decline of Reading in an Age of Ignorance," Quadrant, Jan-Feb 2011.

1 comment:

  1. It's bad. It's really bad. In the March 2011 Asimov's, James Patrick Kelly notes in On the Net: New Brains for Old, that we are becoming stupider worldwide, what with Internet and all.

    Michael Merzenich posted to his blog On The Brain, "When culture drives changes in the ways we engage our brains, it creates DIFFERENT brains."

    A 2009 New Zealand study reported that people playing the first person shooter computer game, Counter Strike for eight hours a week increased their ability to multitask up to two and a half times.

    Researchers have indeed discovered a "new profile of cognitive skills" -- including increase in non-verbal IQ and facility at multitasking -- among heavy users of "the informal learning environments of television, video games and the Internet." But she points to other studies that document the tradeoffs of the ongoing reoganization of our brains. "Although the visual capabilites of television, video games, and the Internet may develop impressive visual intelligence, the cost seems to be deep processing: Mindful knowledge aquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination, and reflection."

    When Nicolas Car first began to notice that it was difficult to pay attention for more than a few minutes, he wrote it off to "middle-age mind rot." But now he attributes the greater part of his lack of concentatation, his tendency to skip and skim and most important, his struggle to read and comprehend entire books, to what the internet is doing to his brain. The internet is transforming us into multitaskers and "heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set".

    Clifford Nass noted, "It's very frightening to us, and I think the reason it's so frightening is we actually didn't study people while they were multitasking. We studied people who were chronic multitaskers, and even we did not as them to anything close to the level of multitasking they were doing, their cognitive processes were impaired. So basically, they are worse at most kinds of thinking not only required for multitasking but what we generally think of as involving deep thought."

    Too bad if deep reading has become a lost skill. Get used to the idea that the age of the book is passing.

    First the book goes. Then web pages. Then blogs. Twitter and text messaging seems to keep the attention span of the nim null twits so far. How long will they last?

    So don't be surprised that people aren't going to go digging deep for valuable gems when you can get slop, swill and junk lying around littering the cyber landscape.

    There's no more time for curiosity.

    There's only time to express your own useless opinions based on some idea snatched during one of those multitasking task switches.

    Talk has never been cheaper, unless you count the money spent on your cell plan.

    So keep your posts on your blog short: Most of your readers have progressively shorter attention spans.