Hyperconnectivity Will Probably Help the Next GenerationWe decry those who watch television, write a paper, and chat with their friends on the computer all at the same time.
Multitasking is seen as anathema to productivity, and is known to produce cognitive declines. But according to PEW, millenials don't seem to suffer from these same things. Even when hyperconnected and incredibly distracted, they remain as sharp as ever. Their minds have adapted to an environment in which attention must be switched rapidly with little decline.
Common thinking is that the rapid, always-on nature of modern communication will lead to a loss of deep-thinking skills. But PEW's Lee Raine doesn't believe that is the case. Rather, the ability to rapidly pivot one's mind to tackle a related problem and the ability to rapidly search for an answer to a thorny problem means that they are better equipped to tackle complicated problems than we are. Lee holds that by 2020, we will see a true cognitive shift that leaves them better capable of dealing with the world than us.
Of course, things will be a little different. With so much information out there, learning won't be what it is today. Why would you memorize something when it is readily available at your fingertips online? Even I frequently memorize what I need to look up on Wikipedia for information rather than the information itself. The next generation is likely to take this to a whole different level.
A slide presentation by Lee quotes cyberanthropologist Amber Case:
Today and in the future, it will not be as important tointernalize information but to elastically be able to takemultiple sources of information in, synthesize them, andmake rapid decisions. Memories are becominghyperlinks to information triggered by keywords andURLs. We are becoming ‘persistent paleontologists’ ofour own external memories, as our brains are storing thekeywords to get back to those memories and not the fullmemories themselves.
Of course, not everyone agrees. PEW's research suggests that people are split over the issue. And it could be that there is a cognitive cost not yet observable. Only time will truly tell. But at least we don't have to worry that the next generation will be completely incapable of dealing with the problems of the world.