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“Monotasking vs. Multitasking”… a short TEDTalks video (PEOPLE RAPIDTASK, NOT MULTITASK FOLKS!)

November 30, 2012

NOTE: I’m going to start a new category on my blog that is actually called, “HEY! I was going to say that!”
It’s going to be populated with Web content, or podcast links, etc. with regard to the things that are so well said, or explain things I have been thinking about and cannot articulate in any concise manner. And I’m making up a word here – rapidtasking. It’s what people can do, as I explain below.

This is one of those cases that I just came across, because I subscribe to the TEDTalks Video YouTube channel.

Paolo Cardini: Forget multitasking, try monotasking
TEDtalksDirector·1,284 videos on YouTube

I think multitasking is a myth, perpetuated by or at least not hindered by, marketing (in the end, follow the money, right?), and this is NOT a new thought by any stretch of the imagination (which is why I’m letting this super-short video speak to it).

If it is not perpetuated directly by marketing and profit motive directly(they just don’t take any responsibility for it in general -it’s not their problem), then it is at the very LEAST a lesson that humans need to rapidly learn when it comes to attempting to multitask in environments where their actions impinge on the health – or even the LIVES of others.

It is partially an inevitability, based on technological developments (which are exceedingly useful). But we have to recognize WHEN and WHERE and HOW it is appropriate and suitable for us to try to ‘multitask’ (or what really amounts to “rapidtasking” – maybe I made up a new word!).

People CAN ‘rapidtask’ because our brains can (for what they are) process information and act on it quickly.. enough… but not quickly enough to avoid endangering each other and causing some serious social dysfunction (my take on how people are interacting these days :-).

Brains cannot parallel process (at least that’s my understanding)!

This has implications on both a functional AND social level for how we (or many of us) currently interact with each other AND with our environment on a moment to moment basis.

1. This is why numerous studies by cognitive scientists/psychologists/cognitive neuroscientists clearly indicate that it is really, really dangerous for people to be doing things like driving and ANYTHING else (cell phone usage of ANY kind (sorry folks)even with Bluetooth, texting, talking to others in the same car, holding a pet, trying to reprimand unruly kids…)

Numerous studies have, in fact, shown that people cannot even successfully WALK (in a crowd in particular – which is like a road) and talk/use their phones!!!!

Collision avoidance/collision detection? NOT! People using phones/tablets, whatever – walk right into each other, narrowly miss doing so, or walk into objects in their environment. We laugh at that because it’s harmless malfunctioning.

We do NOT laugh at car accidents.

This inability to multitask in this context has been confirmed countless times and there are videos and studies to prove this.

2. Why do we continue to add complex technologies to our lives (not bad in and of itself of course!) but then fail miserably in raising public consciousness to the point where people actually GET IT???

Enforcement of ‘laws’ about not using cell phones while driving is NOT enough, obviously!

People! Catch UP with the idea that people need MORE education about the basic FACT that people cannot drive and do ANYTHING else (if at all possible – I already hear business people kvetching and denying this)!

3. I recently read a book about why people make mistakes. My new favorite niche topic. One page was about how BMW was essentially pushed (oddly enough by consumers) to REMOVE that iDrive system it thought was so elegant and marvelous from its cars when that technology came out.

People COULD NOT HANDLE IT! (this is also because about 99% of people don’t RTFM either, though -look up that acronym – in about 99% of cases and with all products – but that’s another story).

Apparently the ‘simple’ knob controlled or could control some RIDICULOUS number of options in the cars – tens of thousands if I recall correctly.

It was a feat of engineering/design stupidity that we can laugh about now… but it wasn’t funny to the owners.

The page was from a chapter in a fascinating and fun book called “Why We Make Mistakes”  by Joseph Hallinan, which is on my Goodreads reading list on the blog and worth reading.

His Website is: Why We Make Mistakes

I’m reading a LOT of books about this topic by the way. There is nothing WRONG with our brains – we just have to learn what their limitations are and how to use them 🙂 We ALL make mistakes because of how our brains are constructed and we are just learning to recognize those potential pitfalls – so we can potentially avoid SOME of them that might be in our control.

4. SO – did society learn anything from this? At least for our 2-3 tons of metal hurtling down the roads near each other?

NO! Automobile manufacturers LOAD cars up with technology interfaces that are anything BUT intuitive or in line with rapid cognitive processing (so we can DRIVE). Do I need to list them??? GPS, stereo systems that are now really multimedia centers, computer integration including Web access, etc, etc, etc. Do we need all of this?

Do you really, seriously think that humans can handle this when they can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time – or at the very least walk and use a cell (really smart)phone?

I don’t THINK SO 🙂

Guess what, people? Digital gauges look very cool and high-tech, right? But you have to read the digits and your brain is processing them differently than analog gauges. Analog gauges (and this is my own inference) are more suited to rapid incorporation of the information they contain because they are more like an image… You ‘glance’ down at your speedometer and you know what 60MPH looks like as an image. You don’t have to process digits. I think this is why a lot of advanced and very complicated technologies – like aircraft and massive power plants – used analog gauges to some extent. I could be wrong. Let me know if I am! Feel free to comment!

Last, but not least, and probably subject to endless debate:

It is my unoriginal opinion that this techno-multitasking (or the illusion of it) is already a major social dysfunction – people standing around ‘with’ each other but NOT really… because they’re ‘virtually’ elsewhere.. We ALL know this to be true. Again, not a new thought to be found here… but it irks me. It is an extension of the depersonalization and disconnection brought on by the ’email age’ – which is fraught with problems as we all know.

I’m not suggesting that we act like Luddites or anything close to that! I’m a technology student – literally – in college right now studying cybersecurity!

I’m just suggesting that since our brains didn’t come with instruction manuals we need to be constantly vigilant about how they interact with our world. It’s a massively complex, multifaceted topic. It is and has been addressed by any number and combination of academic disciplines. That’s a GOOD THING.

We need to live and LEARN! Take the saying to heart! So we can Live Long and Prosper! (and I would like that to be for all people in all places…)

You can’t RTFM for your brain, now can you 🙂

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