Some people call switching our attention between things that vie for it “multi-tasking”.
Like were a computer with dual cores running two simultaneous processes. Numerous brain imaging studies have shown that what we call “multi-tasking” in humans, is not multi-tasking at all.
The reason why that’s the case is that when you practice distraction (which is what multi-tasking really is – paying attention to something that distracted you from what you were originally paying attention to), you’re training your brain. Why do most all of us seem to fall prey to these devices even as we know they’re causing a real problem for us? The first is that we’re perfectly mal-adapted, biologically speaking, to these devices. We’re radically over-developing the parts of quick thinking, distractable brain and letting the long-form-thinking, creative, contemplative, solitude-seeking, thought-consolidating pieces of our brain atrophy by not using them. Part II – What are we losing as a result of our short attention span and easy distractability? You’re eating lunch with a friend and they excuse themselves to the restroom. Now, you pull our your phone because being unstimulated makes you feel anxious. We didn’t think gap time and “boredom” were valuable.
While it may be simplistic to assume a straightforward "profile", the study did find certain similarities among the perpetrators. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released "The School Shooter: A Quick Reference Guide," which is a compilation of information from the Safe School Initiative, School Violence Threat Management, and The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective.To illustrate, let me ask you if you know what the most profitable part of a casino gaming floor is? Slot machines are extremely powerful earners because they employ a principle called “random payout”. Maybe it was your best round of golf, maybe it was solving a tricky computer science problem. It’s a feeling of peek performance, peek creativity, peek aliveness. In the workout analogy, we don’t want to stop working out our upper body, we want to start working out our legs. One step, I think, is to take a weekly holiday from your devices. And, as a result, its whole focus has been on creating productivity, efficiency and speed. I believe that the biggest gift we can impart on our kids is the ability to be mindful – to pay attention to the things and to the people that are actually around them.Turns out if you pull a handle and it pays out predictably, you very quickly figure it out and stop pulling. The amazing part to me is that we all look around at each other and see ourselves, as adults, failing and then we give these devices to kids and expect them to do better. In fact, as parents of teenagers know, they fare far worse… Whatever it was, likely, you were LOST IN THE MOMENT, completely absorbed in what you were doing. Where’s the #1 reported place where people get insight? But, with smartphones, we aren’t looking at a work device, we’re looking at a lifestyle device. But, all the hardware, all the software, all the UI it has, carries with it 50 years of underyling assumptions – that the purpose of it’s existence is to make us more productive and more efficient. I’d guess that it’s going to be more fast paced than ever. Now imagine your own child in stark contrast to that culture of distraction. In 10 years, that’s going to feel VERY VERY different than the norm.The more you train your brain to pay attention to distractions, the more you get distracted and the less able you are to even focus for brief periods of time on the two or three things you were trying to get done in your ‘multi-tasking’ in the first place. The ones that didn’t look over and see the lion coming to eat them are NOT our ancestors. We expect more from technology and less from each other”. At the heart of manners is a consideration of others. How many times, guys, have you been barked at by your wife because instead of giving full attention to what she was saying, you were looking at your phone. “There is something more important than you and it’s not here in this room.” The second thing I think we’re losing is creativity and insight. Our mind wanders but it’s not constantly being bombarded with new information (at least until we can take our phones in the shower which I’m sure is being worked on…). Time for our minds to make subtle connections and insights. Simply put, at the heart of creativity, insight, imagination and humaneness is an ability to pay attention to ANYTHING – our ideas, our line of thinking, each other. So, hopefully, by this point I’ve convinced you of a few things No, I think the solution is to balance the DISTRACTING brain training you’re doing every single day with training that strengthens long-form ATTENTION. For some that means leaving the phone and going for a 15 minute walk. The primary insight of the Slow Tech folks is quite interesting. An ability to make real human connection by not signaling that there might be something better on his smartphone to look at.The ones that did look, only to see it was a harmless bird, are. The second reason is something casinos have known for a long time. Think about your own examples when you felt at your most creative or your best performance. Once people experience the zone, most of us want to get back there. We want to OVERCOME OUR FEAR OF BOREDOM, OUR ANXIETY OF BEING UNSTIMULATED recognize the value of gap time and not have anxiety about it. From sunup Sunday to when I put the kids to bed I do no phone, no email, no TV, no radio. They note that the primary way we’ve used technology over the last 50 years has been in the workplace. An ability to pay attention to a problem for a long time.