Modern technology depletes human cognitive abilities more rapidly than drugs
relying on computer spell-checks.
Of course, this column couldn’t have been compiled or sent for publication without accessing the Internet. Doing so, I came across the news – in something called The Register – that a study of more than 100 000 children in more than 30 countries revealed that non-computer using kids performed better in literacy and numeracy schools than PC-using children. Apparently education experts have named this the “problem solving deficit disorder” after the infamous Attention Deficit Disorder.
In another startling revelation, results of a psychiatric study at King’s College in London indicated that modern technology depletes human cognitive abilities more rapidly than drugs. While marijuana users suffer on average a 5% loss in IQ scores, email users lose 10% a clinical King’s College trial of 1 000 participants showed.
“Doziness, lethargy and an inability to focus are classic characteristics” of addicts, but email users exhibited those particular symptoms to a “startling” degree, according to Dr Glenn Wilson of King’s College.
Wilson’s research showed that email addicts were bombarded by context switches and developed an inability to distinguish between trivial and significant messages. Wilson found that an alarming 20% of trialists jeopardised their immediate social relations by rushing off to “check their messages” in the middle of a conversation.
Half a century ago Swedish researchers discovered that an executive is interrupted every few minutes throughout a normal working day. Today, that problem has been compounded by the email phenomenon. One researcher estimates that an email can cause an average disruption of three minutes.
It takes on average one minute and 44 seconds to react to a new email notification by activating the email application. Having dealt with the email there’s recall time, in which around 60 seconds is taken getting back to the work being done prior to the email disruption.
Among the benefits of retirement is that I have not become embroiled in the management-by-email syndrome. Employing our god given gift for verbal communication is so obviously superior to sending each other long-winded memos or dozens of crisp little emails that it’s beyond understanding that we don’t use it as the principal means of communication in our daily interface with colleagues.
It’s simply not possible to convey to another person one’s feelings concerning a matter – as opposed to factual information – without speaking to them, preferably in person but if not by phone, cellphone or CCTV.
Messaging can be useful or it can be a serious commercial curse, reducing productivity, damaging personal relationships, losing the value of face-to-face human interchange and even, as the King’s College studies show, eroding individual IQ levels and inflicting on emailers the symptoms of drug addiction.