Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Hooked On Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price 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.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hooked On Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price

Comments Filter:
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:11AM (#32483302) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:11AM (#32483314)

    As soon as I finish checking Techmeme and Twitter.

  • 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

  • Basically (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:13AM (#32483342) Journal
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:33AM (#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.

      • by Gilmoure ( 18428 )

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

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 )
        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 wel
        • Re:Basically (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Unordained ( 262962 ) <unordained_slashdotNOSPAM@csmaster.org> on Monday June 07, 2010 @12:59PM (#32485610)

          For those too lazy to read the parent's links: anecdotes, personal experience, a priori reasoning, and asking for experiments. In the actual article, you'll find references to actual scientific studies on the subject already done. One of the cool things about science is that it often comes across counter-intuitive results, as seems to have been the case here; maybe you're having trouble accepting their conclusions, or you didn't notice, or you have other evidence (real, this time) you'd care to share with us. The article states that most people aren't good at multi-tasking, only 3% are considered "super-taskers". Maybe you're one of them. Congratulations. But just because that doesn't jive with your personal experience doesn't justify responding to a call for evidence with:

          a) poor-form arguments (it's also poor form to spew opinions without backup in the first place [woah, citation needed!]), and
          b) anecdotal evidence as if it were the evidence being requested

          • Read the article, it is mostly anecdotes about people who appear to have ADD. The actual studies they cite show nothing except that some people are better multi-taskers than others. It appears that your personal experience is different than mine. Sorry about that.
            • There's a difference between anecdotes used to explain or make more personal a point already made more fully in a study, and using them as examples of your own a priori reasoning. Journalists have to find a way to make otherwise dry material more palatable, by "bringing it home" to the readers. So yes, the article does use one long-running anecdote for structure, but it's not the true source material. Note that I'm not saying you're wrong -- but at this point, the opposition has provided more evidence than

              • Basically, if it matters to you to be able to multitask, practice it and you'll get better. If it matters to you to be able to focus, practice focusing and you'll get better. If you practice both, you'll get better at both. You can either believe some poorly-conceived study which doesn't really even address the question of how to get better, or believe some random weird guy (me) on slashdot, or you can experiment for yourself and see what you come up with. From my perspective, I have way stronger evidenc
        • by Endo13 ( 1000782 )

          The problem is that no one can actually focus on more than one thing at a time. In fact, that's pretty much exactly what "focus" means: to pay attention to only one thing. People who are good multi-taskers are merely better at switching focus from one thing to another. The premise of the article is that as you increase your ability in switching focus quickly between many things, you lose your ability to maintain focus on one thing.

          While it may be debatable whether or not that's good or bad, I tend to agree

        • The original article, which seems to be somewhat based on scientific studies, suggests that our new technological "multitasking" is rewiring our brains to always give priority to newer incoming information.

          Mr. Nass says the Stanford studies are important because they show multitasking’s lingering effects: “The scary part for guys like Kord is, they can’t shut off their multitasking tendencies when they’re not multitasking.”

          In most of your examples, you are not engaging in the sort of "multitasking" being described. For example, you talk about setting up different desktops for different tasks, and ignoring anything going on with other desktops. You focus entirely on the task you're working on. That's not multitasking.


      • by Idbar ( 1034346 )
        1. The GP doesn't say you can do both at the same time, but you can practice to learn the skills. Instead of being distracted, you can perform multiple things at the time.
        2. Indy cars I'd assume are very efficient, and I'd assume F1 cars even more. I don't think they are economic, but I'm positive the research done is that they will take advantage of each drop of gas (or ethanol) to boost their performance. I'm also positive that if the goal of maximizing efficiency in those cars was to achieve a balance b
      • Show me a car that can win the Indy 500 and is the most fuel efficient of all cars.

        While your analogy is silly I'll point you to the Consulier GTP was getting 21/27 mpg in the 1990 version and was banned from most if not all racing circuits it was in because it always won. Not being "pretty" enough was it's downfall.

        http://www.allpar.com/cars/adopted/consulier-gtp.html [allpar.com]

        http://fueleconomydb.com/specs/1990/CONSULIER/CONSULIER%2520GTP [fueleconomydb.com]

    • Re:Basically (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EL_mal0 ( 777947 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:34AM (#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.

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        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

      • 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

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by EL_mal0 ( 777947 )

          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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 )
        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, an
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by anegg ( 1390659 )

          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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Belial6 ( 794905 )

          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.

          While I agree with what you say, I don't believe that it is the whole story with new drivers, or even the biggest piece of a multi-piece problem. Bigger than efficient task switching is that experienced drivers DON'T focus on many of the tasks you point out. Frequently they ignore some tasks that new drivers are told to focus on, and often the ones they don't ignore, they only watch for a change that would call greater attention. I can honestly say that I haven't looked at my temperature gauge more than

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BobMcD ( 601576 )


        In a test created by Mr. Ophir and his colleagues, subjects at a computer were briefly shown an image of red rectangles. Then they saw a similar image and were asked whether any of the rectangles had moved. It was a simple task until the addition of a twist: blue rectangles were added, and the subjects were told to ignore them. (Play a game testing how well you filter out distractions.)

        The multitaskers then did a significantly worse job than the non-multitaskers at recognizing whether red rectangles had changed position. In other words, they had trouble filtering out the blue ones — the irrelevant information.

        This study is more interesting as an example of selection bias than it is about anything around "tasking". The scenario measures the impact of distraction, which is well known to have a deficit on focus. This is a non-finding, at least as described in the article.

        My challenge would be summarized as: How well did the people who had only red rectangles do at noticing movement in the blue ones?

        Multi-tasking generally happens because we have the capacity to handle it. The example I quoted demonstrates

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

    • by welcher ( 850511 )
      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.
      • The article follows some people who appear to have ADD. The section you refer to shows nothing except that people who follow certain patterns of technology usage are not as good at multi-tasking as others (or rather, that they are not as good at performing certain game-like tasks). It most certainly does not address what I said. If anything it supports the idea that some people are better at multi-tasking than others. Make sure you understand what your links say before you tell people that their argumen
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:14AM (#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.

    • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:28AM (#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.


      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: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Hylandr ( 813770 )
        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 anyon
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DeadDecoy ( 877617 )
          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
          • I have no cable, leave my landline unplugged (to stop annoying solicitors)

            Don't you have call barristering?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          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.

    • "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

    • 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 s

      • The coolest execs or distinguished engineers that I have met, just take a quick glance at the phone to see who is calling

        That requires an extra $100 per year service from the phone company. Execs can afford it; others not necessarily.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      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.

    • 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.

      Can "I need a ride home" bear being delayed for an hour or two? That's really almost all I use my cell phone for anyway, which is why I'm on Virgin Mobile's $7 per month plan.

      If they are prepared to do some work themselves, they can TEXT you, instead.

      Three issues:

      • You can't text to or from a land line.
      • U.S. cell phone carriers have tended to overcharge for texting.
      • We've conditioned ourselves to stop doing almost everything in order to answer a text. Even if we have no idea who's texting, we are prepared to interrupt most activities and (unforgivably) most people in order to write a
    • by Gilmoure ( 18428 )

      Yup. Even at work (remote tech support), I've gone from trying to answer every call and work as many problems at once to only working a couple active issues at a time and letting VM catch things.

      I've also turned off all audible alarms for email, IM, etc.

      For outside of work, I find doing anything with my hands (wood work, drawing, music) really helps stress relief and getting my concentration back.

    • This is why I pass all calls through to voicemail unless the call is by appointment. People abuse the phone to ask me simple questions where an email would have done it in a fraction of the time. If you want to call and chat for an hour that's still doable, but my phone no longer generates interrupts.

  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:14AM (#32483350) Homepage Journal

    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?

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:16AM (#32483362) Homepage Journal

    "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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by somersault ( 912633 )

      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? (Score:4, Funny)

    by scottwilkins ( 1224922 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:16AM (#32483364)
    I have no problems with foc.. Squirrel!
  • I could focus if only Slashdot would stop posting these (very) short bursts of information...
  • by lobiusmoop ( 305328 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:19AM (#32483406) Homepage

    Addiction [xkcd.com]

  • I agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pcraven ( 191172 ) <<moc.ylimafnevarc> <ta> <luap>> on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:28AM (#32483494) Homepage

    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.

    • Russian is better than management!

    • by alen ( 225700 )

      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 t

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:34AM (#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.

  • by PatPending ( 953482 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:36AM (#32483610)

    In related news:

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


    "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.'"

    • 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.

  • by rAiNsT0rm ( 877553 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:39AM (#32483646) Homepage

    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.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      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 th

      • 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%.

        • by vlm ( 69642 )

          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 orde

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:52AM (#32483830)
    TFA is wrong because
    What does submit button do?
  • Future Shock (Score:5, Informative)

    by handy_vandal ( 606174 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:53AM (#32483854) Homepage Journal

    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vlm ( 69642 )

      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

      • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rockoon ( 1252108 )

        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

        • by vlm ( 69642 )

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

          Oh, I'm well aware indeed. The lifestyle you describe is for us few remaining middle class folks.

          Now everyone has one.

          We can feed ourselves for a month on one to two days of salary.

          Technology is now hyper-disposable because we are insanely rich. Period. You are rich.

          Yes, us rich extremely highly technically trained slashdotters. Joe 6 pack at the median income? No freaking way. Yes I personally am kind of rich, not quite up to the "no longer need to work" level or "buy my own tropical island" level, and I get the feeling you're vaguely near my situation, but everyone is by no means at that point. At the national median income level, your preposterous assumption that on

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by uniquegeek ( 981813 )

      And those of us who are perfectionists beat ourselves up for not being able to "handle" it all.

      Bookmarks and lesser to-do lists, unfinished projects or "projects I should really do sometime" become a guilty burden. When we have the expectation that we're supposed to do everything and follow every lead, we feel like failures when we don't.

      • I'm very familiar with the phenomenon you're describing.

        I call it "Fatal Utopianism" -- the overwhelming, irrational, and unrealistic desire to make Everything Perfect.

        I'll bet this accounts for something like 75% of all late software deliverables. (Doesn't it just bug the hell out of you that the variable named "column3" doesn't really refer to a column, but rather to a pull quote? Okay okay, the usage is consistent, the program works perfectly, no one but me will ever see the variable name ... but man, I

  • 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]
  • ..."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 li

  • by DCheesi ( 150068 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @11:02AM (#32483950) Homepage

    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?

    • 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.
    • by nebular ( 76369 )

      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.

  • by PatPending ( 953482 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @11:06AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mmaniaci ( 1200061 )
      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?

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

  • 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.
  • by Rastl ( 955935 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @11:29AM (#32484286) Journal

    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.

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

      And a Blackberry doesn't allow you to check your mail when you choose? Sorry, but I see a small problem with those who claim that completely ridding themselves of technology is needed in order to not be consumed by it. A little personal discipline isn't hard to achieve.

  • 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. :)

  • Balance is key (Score:3, Insightful)

    by adosch ( 1397357 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @11:43AM (#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.

  • Sounds like ADHD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nebular ( 76369 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @12:00PM (#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)

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @12:55PM (#32485560)
    The recurring PBS special "all things digital" had a segment on MIT and Stanford students who thought they were "so smart" because they could multi-task digital devices all the time. The PBS show reported an earlier version of the Stanford study showing these students were performing worse than their less-taxed associates. I am guessing that self-perception doesnt always match reality.
  • I took their tests and scored perfectly in the first one and better than average in the second.

    I'm a heavy multitasker.


  • Wait. What? (Score:2, Funny)

    by kriston ( 7886 )

    Wait. What?

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva