Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mind Under Matter

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day… Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.”
-- Pink Floyd

(A band that existed before MySpace)

* * *

The most important, but probably least discussed, impact of the Internet on our society is the prevalence of “multi-tasking.”

Why, just while writing these first two paragraphs, I’ve already emailed my wife about dinner, set up some music to play on Pandora, and checked the weather forecast, and it hasn’t impacted the quality of my we had chicken last night, let’s go out for freezing rain.

The more in-touch you are with technological developments, the more you are training your brain to operate well, even with constant distraction and interruption… right?

Dr. John J. Medina has written a book called “Brain Rules,” debunking the theory that being able to “concentrate” on more than one thing at a time is a valuable skill.

“It’s a myth,” says Medina on his website, “Your brain is a sequential processor. It is simply switching tasks,” which adds transition time between thoughts, and thus, makes you about as efficient and effective as a hamster-powered meat grinder.

Medina ignores the fact that it is easy to make up for this lost efficiency by completing more tasks while you drive.

We’ve all heard stories about people reading magazines, applying make-up, or searching under the seat for that lost Chicken McNugget as they careen down the highway.

These are the people you always marvel at for how much they seem to get done in a day.

But we’re starting to see stories in the media lately about the dangers of text messaging while driving, or “driving while Intexticated,” especially by inexperienced drivers. It’s more hazardous, according to Medina, than drunk driving.

Bah. I’m all in favor of completing more tasks in less time. So what if it’s dangerous? Think of all the time you’ll save once you clear some room in your schedule by going to jail or dying.

But we have to get teens to stop texting behind the wheel.

It’s a huge waste of time.

If you’re going to pull your attention away from driving, you should at least do it for something productive and worthwhile, like studying for your geometry exam, or trying to get to second base with your girlfriend.

Thankfully, a group of researchers at the University of Utah has invented a car ignition device that can interfere with your teen’s cell phone signal.

It’s called the “Key2SafeDriving,” and once it’s on the market, it will give you the peace of mind of knowing you don’t have to teach your kids to make responsible choices on their own.

The device would still allow your teen to call home (“What’s your ATM pin again?”) or to call 911 (“my energy drink is wearing off and I can’t move”).

“Adult drivers cannot text or use a handheld cell phone,” the university says, “but the Key2SafeDriving system does allow them to talk using a hands-free cell phone – even though studies … indicate hands-free phones are just as distracting as handheld phones.”

The device may have its skeptics, but I say if it keeps only one or two young drivers from pawing at their iPhones while driving, so they can concentrate on some good old-fashioned daydreaming instead, it must be considered a success.

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