Monday, May 31, 2010

Flow Versus "New Cognition"

There has been some speculation online that kids these days aren't actually interrupted all the time and incapable of concentrating, but are instead just better at multitasking, and are in effect changing the way people think--that we're witnessing the emergence of a new kind of cognition. Evidence for this includes measurable changes to brain structures from playing lots of video games, and so forth. Some posts have gone so far as to say that because of this new cognitive style, kids shouldn't have to learn to spell, because good spelling isn't required for online communication. And of course anyone who disagrees is an old fogey who just can't keep up. ADHD isn't a disease, it's a New Way Of Thinking.

Uh huh.

Andrew Wiles spent seven years secluded in an attic. When he emerged, he had proven Fermat's Last Theorem as a side-effect of proving a much more general and profound result.

Now suppose he had been one of these New Cognition types. How far do you suppose he'd have gotten on that proof?

I think he'd still be in the attic, banging away on his Wii.

As an old fogey who can spend hours at a time in flow, I'm worried that kids will grow up never entering a state of flow at work, and the cost to humanity in lost productivity will be gigantic. Our best and brightest will constantly thrash, never achieving their potential.

They'll be totally pwnd.

1 comment:

  1. Could not agree more! I think all the kids these days that tout the "open office" environment and these ridiculous pod cubes have *never experienced flow* and so have no idea how productive they could be without the constant physical and virtual interrupts.