Right now, at this very minute, you're probably reading this text on one of your multiple open browser tabs, maybe listening to some music, in the middle of sending a text, and toggling between a couple of documents. And you know what? That's considered normal these days.
Just so long as you're not driving.
In order to be the high-functioning humans we claim to be, we're expected to be able to juggle at least a few jobs at the same time. We might be getting more done, but research shows that the more plates we try to spin, the less time we have to focus on each. And our work actually suffers because of it.
Douglass Rushkoff has made a career of predicting what our future holds (he coined the phrase "viral video," among others). His latest book, "Present Shock, Where Everything Happens Now" takes a look at the ramifications of becoming a culture obsessed with taking in as much information as we can.
Joining the conversation is the University of Utah's David Strayer. You might remember the New York Times video game on distracted driving based on Strayer's research into multitasking.
• Interview with Clifford Nass on multitasking
"The big point here is, you walk around the world, and you see people multitasking, working on tasks while watching TV, while talking with people. If they're at the computer, they're playing games and they're reading e-mail and they're on Facebook, etc. Yet classic psychology says that's impossible; no one can do that. So we're confronted with a mystery. Here are all these people doing things that psychology says is impossible. And we want to ask the question, how do they do it? Do they have some secret ingredient, some special ability that psychologists had no idea about, or what's going on?" (PBS)
• Top Multitaskers Help Explain How Brain Juggles Thoughts
"'Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves,' Albert Einstein is purported to have said. The quote acknowledges a fundamental characteristic of human attention. Sometimes there simply is not enough of it to go around." (Scientific American)
• Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain
"As they head down the tight curves the San Juan has carved from ancient sandstone, the travelers will, not surprisingly, unwind, sleep better and lose the nagging feeling to check for a phone in the pocket. But the significance of such changes is a matter of debate for them. Some of the scientists say a vacation like this hardly warrants much scrutiny. But the trip's organizer, David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, says that studying what happens when we step away from our devices and rest our brains — in particular, how attention, memory and learning are affected — is important science." (New York Times)