Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Future Brain

This (below) is an interesting, albeit somewhat lengthy (13 min.) and far-ranging, NPR podcast about technology, brain development and social relations. It focuses primarily on how internet technology affects cerebral functioning (specifically attention and comprehension) and social interactions and attitudes, but it bounces around quite a bit. Stick it out, the first couple of minutes is not all it covers in terms of content or perspective.

I have to believe that our brains are significantly affected, and sometimes changed, by intense and chronic activities, such as extensive use of the internet ... or pretty much anything else for that matter. And like most things, it’s seldom all good or all bad.

Is the fact that, thanks to internet-facilitated accessibility, more info is available at our fingertips today than ever before a bad thing? I think not, as long as we develop the means and skills to filter and deal with the heightened potential for distraction. (And that’s where the real hand-wringing and striving for solutions should be focused, because not enough seems to be happening there, educationally and otherwise.)

Is today’s technology stunting social development, or just fostering a new kind of social development – one more suited to the likely demands of the future? We seem to have an impulse to quickly judge all changes in social interactions to be wholly bad, when, in fact, social interactions have been changing in many ways (subtle and profound) for many, many years (i.e., since the dawn of man).

Yes, we do live in a world of less depth and more breadth, and that is disconcerting on some levels. But that too has been going on for a long time. I don’t think it can be blamed primarily on computers, the internet, cell phones or even TV.

Anyway, the neurological and social sciences examining all these things are still works-in-progress. Regardless of where the yet-to-be-realized essential realities lie, it is thought-provoking stuff. And that’s never a bad thing.

Long live the info omnivores!

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