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Multitasking Our Way to Distraction

What do we stand to gain from all our gadgetry in this, our wired (not to mention wireless) era? Improved manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination? The ability to soundly defeat pixelated alien hordes via video games?

Some of those potentially beneficial side effects may well occur with repeated use of various technological implements such as iPads and tricked-out cell phones, but as this somewhat alarming New York Times piece proposes, the costs may well outweigh the returns in terms of quality of life. –KA

The New York Times:

Other times, Mr. Campbell’s information juggling has taken a more serious toll. A few weeks earlier, he once again overlooked an e-mail message from a prospective investor. Another time, Mr. Campbell signed the company up for the wrong type of business account on Amazon.com, costing $300 a month for six months before he got around to correcting it. He has burned hamburgers on the grill, forgotten to pick up the children and lingered in the bathroom playing video games on an iPhone.

Mr. Campbell can be unaware of his own habits. In a two-and-a-half hour stretch one recent morning, he switched rapidly between e-mail and several other programs, according to data from RescueTime, which monitored his computer use with his permission. But when asked later what he was doing in that period, Mr. Campbell said he had been on a long Skype call, and “may have pulled up an e-mail or two.”

The kind of disconnection Mr. Campbell experiences is not an entirely new problem, of course. As they did in earlier eras, people can become so lost in work, hobbies or TV that they fail to pay attention to family.

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