The Tool Works at Both Ends

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 25, 2012 · 44 comments

in A Man's Life

From chipping out spearheads in primitive times to modern day tinkering with computer chips, men have always been very connected to their tools. For thousands of years tools have magnified and extended our natural abilities, allowing us to gain power and control over nature and our circumstances and better fulfill our roles as providers and protectors. Tools enable us to mold and shape things in our external environment for our use and benefit.

And that is what we typically focus on when it comes to tools: what does this tool allow me to do?

But something else you need to think about is this: what is this tool doing to me?

You may have heard that tools are neutral things. And this is true in one aspect; for example, you can use a hammer to drive in a nail…or to bash in someone’s head. But tools are absolutely not neutral in the fact that the tools you choose to use and how you use them not only change things externally but mold you internally. The Jesuit priest and media scholar John Culkin put it this way: “We shape our tools, and thereafter they shape us.” Or as Darren’s blacksmith friends say, “The tool works at both ends.

The way in which you use your tools creates real biological and neurological changes in your brain, which fundamentally alters who you are.

This Is Your Brain on Tools

Scientists used to think that when we were young, our brains were pliable and easily shaped, but that after adolescence, they set and hardened like concrete. But modern technology, which has given researchers an unprecedented look at what goes on inside the brain, has completely flipped that theory. It turns out our brains are very “plastic,” and this is true not only in youth, but throughout our lives. Our brains are constantly being reshaped and rewired every day by our experiences, thoughts, and actions.

And also by the tools we use. Examples of how our brains change in accordance with the tools we use are fascinating:

When MRI’s were done on violinists, it was found that the part of their cerebral cortices that corresponded with the fingers of their left hands (the digits they use to finger the strings of their instruments) were bigger than in the brains of non-musicians. But in both groups the area that represents the fingers of the right hand were the same size.

When the brains of London taxi drivers were studied, they were found to have larger posterior hippocampi, the part of the brain responsible for processing and integrating spatial representations of one’s surroundings. This area of the brain stores our mental maps—a key tool for cabbies who need to navigate their way around the city. The study also found that the posterior hippocampus grew bigger the longer the cabbie had been on the job.

The brains of the literate and illiterate have been shown to handle interhemispheric processing differently. When a person becomes literate, the organization of their brains’ cognitive activity changes, and the corpus callosum becomes thicker.

In a study with preschool children, one group of children practiced learning their letters by writing them, while another group practiced by seeing and saying the letters. A month later, the children’s brains were scanned with a MRI machine, which showed that those who had practiced writing the letters had neural activity that was greater and more adult-like than the children who had said the letters aloud.

Internet use activates a specific part of the prefontal cortex of the brain. When people who are new to the internet are introduced to it, this part of their brains does not show any activity. But after using the internet for only one hour a day for five days, they show as much activity in this area of the brain as veteran internet users do. Brain rewiring takes place in less than a week.

Tool Tradeoffs

So in the case of your brain, the tool truly does work at both ends. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it’s both. As psychologist Patricia Greenfield puts it, “Every medium develops some cognitive skills at the expense of others.” Regular use of one kind of tool will strengthen some areas of the brain while weakening the areas that don’t get exercised; our brains operate on the “use it or lose it” principle.

For example, the study done with the taxi drivers found that while their posterior hippocampi were larger than the average person’s, their anterior hippocampi were smaller; the area for spatial memory had crowded out the area for other kinds of memory, and follow-up tests showed that tasks involving non-spatial memory were more difficult for the cabbies to do.

These kinds of mental tradeoffs occur with all tools that we use. Surfing the net can strengthen areas of the brain that deal with things like hand-eye coordination, reflex response, and the processing of visual cues. It may also build our visual-spatial skills (increasing our ability to do things like rotate an object in our minds) and our working memory. But at the same time it may, some scientists like Greenfield argue, “weaken the kind of “deep processing” that underpins “mindful knowledge acquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination, and reflection.”

The problem these days is that we’re using fewer and fewer tools in our lives. We once had a bunch of specialized tools for all the different aspects of life: paper and pencils, calendars, maps, books, hammers, saws, telephones, radios… Now we have one all-purpose tool: the computer.

And that’s making for some lopsided brains.

Enroll Your Brain in Mental CrossFit

Have you ever seen a dude that concentrated on building up his upper body but never did any lower body exercises? The result was a beefy, well-sculpted torso, along with a pair of disproportionate chicken legs.

Because of our reliance on computers, we’re developing some chicken-legged brains. We’re using some parts of our brains a ton, but letting other areas atrophy and fall into disuse.

And this matters.

One, because our technology may not always be around. Break your GPS, and you’ll still need to be able to read a real map and utilize your “mental maps.” Will your hippocampus be up to the task?

And two, there are still a lot of areas of our lives that require parts of our brains that are not activated by the internet.

It was the fascinating (if in my opinion a little too pessimistic) book, The Shallows, that got me thinking about this subject. The author, Nicholas Carr, writes many pages on the powerful effect technology has on our brains and our thinking. But it was this short little observation from his own life that stuck with me the most, because it hit so close to home:

My mind…[is] changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I feel it most strongly when I’m reading. I used to find it easy to immerse myself in a book or a lengthy article. My mind would get caught up in the twists of the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration starts to drift after a page or two. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel like I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

How many of us could say the same thing about our own minds? And this inability to focus affects not only how we read; while we have come to expect all areas of our lives to function like the internet by giving us short, constantly changing little bursts of information, many areas of our life stubbornly continue to function in the slow, linear fashion that they have for hundreds of years. Going camping, sitting through a church service or a college class, giving someone our full attention during a conversation…if the only tool we’ve been using is the computer, the chicken legs of our brain easily give out during the “strain” of such activities. Everything outside the net feels a lot more boring than it used to. But there are some experiences in life you don’t want to scan and skim your way through, but would rather completely lose yourself in. So how do you maintain the ability to truly immerse yourself in life?

The answer is not to cut off your internet and throw your computer out the window, but instead to enroll your brain in “Mental CrossFit.” You’ve probably heard of CrossFit by now. It is a fitness program governed by this simple mission statement:

The aim of CrossFit is to forge a broad, general, and inclusive fitness. We have sought to build a program that will best prepare trainees for any physical contingency—not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable. After looking at all sport and physical tasks collectively, we asked what physical skills and adaptations would most universally lend themselves to performance advantage. Capacity culled from the intersection of all sports demands would quite logically lend itself well to all sport. In sum, our specialty is not specializing.

This philosophy not only works for your physical body, but for your mental capacity as well. In your daily life you should seek to “punish the specialist” by building up all parts your mind and preparing it for anything and everything by using a wide range of tools, not just the computer. You want as many areas of your brain to be as fit and game as possible.

Some of the ways you can do that are:

While you tone up your brain by using a wide variety of tools in your life, you also strengthen your man spirit and your character. Scientists can’t prove this of course (although some have theorized that internet use leads to a decline in social skills like empathy), but you have surely felt it in your own life. Writing an email feels very different than writing a letter by hand. An hour spent surfing the net feels very different from an hour spent whittling on the porch. When we confine ourselves to only one tool, we shut down avenues of our spirit, as Carr describes so well:

 In Understanding Media, McLuhan wrote that our tools end up “numbing” whatever part of our body they “amplify.” When we extend some part of ourselves artificially, we also distance ourselves from the amplified part and its natural functions. When the power loom was invented, a weaver could manufacture far more cloth during the course of a workday than they’d been able to make by hand, but they sacrificed some of the manual dexterity, not to mention some of their “feel” for the fabric. Their fingers, in McLuhan’s terms, became numb. Farmers, similarly, lost some of their feel for the soil when they began using mechanical harrows and plows. Today’s industrial farm worker, sitting in his air-conditioned cage atop a gargantuan tractor, rarely touches the soil at all—though in a single day he can till a field that his hoe-wielding forebearer could not have turned in a month. When we’re behind the wheel of our car, we can go a far greater distance than we could cover on foot, but we lose the walker’s intimate connection to the land.

For millenia, tools have helped us live our lives more fully, and it is wise to pick up and master the new ones that are developed. But it is up to us to continue to use tools consciously and carefully, in order that they may allow us to be more, and not less, alive.


The Shallows By Nicholas Carr

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chase March 25, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Of the seven things you have listed here for your brain crossfit, I have found myself doing at least five of them regularly here in the last couple of months, and I can honestly say I can tell a difference. Another great article, thank you.

2 Tyler Haas March 26, 2012 at 12:03 am

Great article Brett! You seem to write such timely articles for me as it seems that I am starting to think or look at something right as when you write on it. Really enjoyed this one.

3 Anthony B March 26, 2012 at 12:09 am

Excellent! As soon as I read the first paragraph I had to read the rest. We hear about how the ‘net is shaping our brains quite a bit, but leave it to AoM to perfectly synthesize that into an article about tool usage and neural plasticity. You’ve made me more aware of how my brain and mind work and I’m determined to design/stretch my brain better.

This really ties in well with how I’ve been working on developing good habits. I’ve been taking them one at a time trying to literally build my life step-by-step, starting with rising at a set time each day (now three weeks of successful early rising), paying attention to and writing down my dreams, and determining what habits to build next. After reading this I think two of the most important will be to walk my dog each morning and cook breakfast (instead of reaching for the cold cereals).

Thanks for the great article!

4 Vince March 26, 2012 at 12:13 am

Awesome article, never even thought about this but it makes so much sense! I really can’t thank the two of you guys enough for this amazing website. I’ve learned so much

5 Harry March 26, 2012 at 12:27 am

The last four tips are most easily summed up as “join the Boy Scouts.” My uncle is an exterminator, no genius but a good man, and he once famously observed at the dinner table, “technology is making us stupid.” Nobody remembers phone numbers, because they are all programmed into our cell phones. We don’t remember how to get places because GPS always tells you where to go.

6 Alex E March 26, 2012 at 1:04 am

I appreciated this article for tackling an important and difficult topic. Keeping in good mental shape is something we seem to address less than keeping in physical shape, and that’s a shame. Kudos for bringing it to light.

Having said that, I think a little more nuance is warranted when interpreting the science. It’s crucial to emphasize that just because you can show that something changes a little bit of brain structure doesn’t mean you can infer that the effect is “good” or “bad” – the brain is what stores all your behavior, so of course any behavioral difference is going to be encoded somewhere, and sometimes it’s big enough for us to measure.

Take the kids learning the alphabet. Of course learning to write letters will make them look more “adult” in an MRI, because adults write! But that *doesn’t* tell you whether the writing group knows the alphabet better than the speaking group (though perhaps that was measured differently elsewhere) – all it’s telling you is that the groups are doing something differently.

It’s easy to freak out that technology is “changing our brains” for the worse, but I think we need to similarly step back and think about what the science is actually telling us. Yes, your brain looks different than your grandpa’s, and your grandson’s will look even more different. But that alone won’t tell you who’s smarter, more capable, or otherwise better or worse.

I do almost everything from a computer. I read books and articles, I program, I solve physics problems, I write in my journal, I listen to music. I could do these elsewhere, and my brain would be different as a result, but I don’t believe that would matter. I think what matters is the diversity of thinking and doing, and the medium, the technology, is neutral.

7 Brett McKay March 26, 2012 at 1:12 am


Something I tried to make clear in the post, and maybe I could have made it clearer, is that the way technology is changing our brains is neither good nor bad, just different. But I do think a case can be made that doing things that activate different parts of the brain can be a good thing. Our brains are different than our grandparents’ brains, but there’s no reason to settle for either if you can try to combine the strengths and benefits of each.

8 Joe Miller March 26, 2012 at 1:26 am

Great post! And Brett I thought it was very reasonable and nuanced. One of the things I appreciate about the site is that it doesn’t go to extremes. It’s not “Be a Luddite! The internet is the devil.” But take the good things from now but be thoughtful about your choices.

9 Kyle F. March 26, 2012 at 1:42 am

McLuhan also said something to the effect that people who don’t believe the medium matters, that only the message matters, are naive idiots, and that the message is simply the meat that the medium throws out to distract the mind while the medium sneaks in. “the medium is the message.”

10 Brian March 26, 2012 at 3:11 am

…think I’m gonna go work in the garage for a bit.

11 Matt March 26, 2012 at 5:43 am

Great article Brett and Kate. I have to say, I lost myself when reading this, it was just so interesting.

Thanks for giving me some food for thought.



12 WAR March 26, 2012 at 6:23 am

@ Alex E

Sound a little bit desperate to justify ourselves, do we? Nothing is ever better or worse, is it? Just different. That’s a good way of going about life…

13 James March 26, 2012 at 8:59 am

What’s scary is that I myself began to notice the struggle of “falling into” reading “offline”, so I can certainly relate to that feeling. Granted, I had stopped reading books for a long while (I wish I could come up with a good reason why), however it’s slowly coming back, yet there are still struggles. It’s almost as if my brain is too active, and I can’t simply get in the groove.

I began writing more in an old leather bound journal near the holidays, and also writing letters to family, and I have found that the more I do it, the better I concentrate on any type of writing tasks, even if I am firing off a quick email to my boss.

As for the plasticity of the brain, and the activation of certain area’s, I find no fault in this. My current work has me dealing with some fascinating advances in neurosurgery that relates particularly to post-stroke sufferers and changes in vision. The “discovery” of the plasticity of the brain and the ability to “train” the brain, even after trauma is only just not starting to be really researched, however all signs point to a future where we can literally shape our brains however we would like, regardless of any conditions, disabilities, etc.

14 John Hosie March 26, 2012 at 9:45 am

Good article.

Two things come to mind. First of all, the tool works at both ends… whether sitting on it or not? ;^)

Second, and probably more important, is the old saying, “A fool with a tool is still a fool.”

Back when I was in high school, I learned various equations to perform calculations on problems in finance, physics, and other sciences. They were critically important, and you really had to memorize them to perform the necessary calculations to achieve on school exams. Once the equations were learned, we were introduced to a slide rule. Again, the use of the slide rule was important to help you quickly arrive at a reasonably accurate computational result so you could get through all the problems on a test. Next, the calculator was introduced. This was the next step, both improving accuracy and speed in performing operations.

The problem I saw from the whole thing is this: For each advance in my/our ability to quickly, accurately compute problem results, less and less of the actual foundational skills were required, until we have reached the point we’re at today where most people don’t have any idea what needs to be done to get from point A to point B in problem resolution. They just plug in numbers and the results magically appear.

We now are at the point where even the equations under the covers are different – depending on what objective one is trying to achieve. Ultimately, getting loud will tear down what might be the best result, while speaking sweetly and stimulating greed will often move people in your direction on an argument. Sorry if I’m not getting into many specifics here, but I think this can easily be applied to our current national situation – reguardless of which side you claim as your own.

15 McBride March 26, 2012 at 9:50 am

Probably one of the most important insights in this modern time, especially as it relates to the internet and reading. The quote from The Shallows had me reeling: the mind’s wandering during reading always left me feeling incapacitated and as a result I dont read at all anymore. In speaking of tools, what of Cameras? There is a camera available to us at every moment. How do we see now as a result? How do we remember?

16 Chase Christy March 26, 2012 at 9:55 am

I’m a runner. I have learned that increasing workload coming after an extended time off is just as much about your brain’s ability to withstand discomfort for increasing lengths of time as it is about your body’s toning. Because of my physical make up, I can get “in shape” pretty quickly, but it takes longer for my brain to adjust. If I pound out really difficult runs too soon after coming back, I have found that I burn out mentally. It’s very hard to stick with it, even if my body can handle it.

Matt Fitzgerald recently wrote a book called Brain Training For Runners that mirrors this article if anyone is interested. I recommend it.

17 Douglas Aldrich March 26, 2012 at 11:33 am

I’ve actually given this a great deal of thought myself lately. I’ve tried to make the initial effort to do some more of these “lively” things, in hopes that it would have this very same effect. Thanks for posting!

18 Alan March 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Great article. I definitely noticed the grade of a road, the smells of restaurants, and the overall landscape in my town after I started cycling.

19 Oscar Ortiz March 26, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I enjoy cutting wood with a handsaw against using a power tool. There is a thrill and a pleasure to it that I can’t fully describe. It is very therapeutically and relaxing.
I love to hand write on a daily basis. It is a need that I’ve developed since childhood before the computers arrived. I still correspond with my brother via snail mail.
As an artist I’ve tried to move on into the digital arena, but I can’t help to draw with pencils and color with traditional media.
As far as the GPS goes, when it became available to the public I hailed it as the answer to my prayers ‘cause I’m totally directionally challenged. Yet, as of today I don’t own one. I feel this primal need to keep challenging myself to pay attention to street signs and road clues. I will learn how to efficiently read a map in the near future.
Great posting and reminder. Thanks.

20 Martin March 26, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Terrific article. Thank you! I have noticed what I’ve called a sort of “Adult-onset A.D.D.” forming in my life that I felt was partially computer related. This helped to solidify that thinking.

21 Auria March 26, 2012 at 1:32 pm

In line with most of the other comments above. Brett, you’ve done it again. :)

22 Nate March 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm

This is just a very timely article. I really liked the quote from the Jesuit scholar.

I definitely do a myriad of the things listed. While I don’t do a major workout routine, I’ve been reading both e-books and print books on a weekly basis. I’m picking up on my Bible reading which really helps keep focus.

We don’t do labor like we used to, we don’t work with our hands the way our fathers and grandfathers did. I think it has a negative effect on society because with the internet, there is just to much short term attention on everything and things loose there value. It’s the tolls we use and the manual things that really complete our bodies. When I was practicing Kung Fu, I learned this really well. Even though I ride a motorcycle and not a pedal bike. It’s a big difference than being in a car, and your more apt to pull over and stop and see things.

It’s definitely something you can feel when your writing a latter by hand than when your typing something. I don’t think the internet is just bad. But I think with the modern culture we really become consumed, and we loose a deep part of ourselves.

23 Nate March 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm

See I definitely have to write by hand and do math problems by hand more often to fix my spelling issues. Ha, way to go Nate.

24 BR March 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Great article, I am constantly trying to focus my mind and already do all but one of the things on your list. The journal has been the tough one for me. Funny side note, I found my focus wandering while reading this and jumping to the hyperlinks.

25 Curt March 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Great article! I enjoy the web site thoroughly. Thank you both for creating this much needed area to get centered again. An hour whittling on the porch…..have not done that for a while. I think I still know where my Fathers pen knife is.

26 Paul March 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Somebody way back when must have known what they were talking about when loss of skill from underuse was described as “getting rusty.”

27 Kevin R Connally March 26, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I am a carpenter, and whenever possible I use hand tools. I still use a hand saw to do framing and even simple things. The fact of the matter is: in many cases it’s faster. Once you have the hang of a hand saw it’s just as fast as a Skil saw (which I also own). Many cuts would be difficult or dangerous to do on a tablesaw that are much easier with the proper handsaw. That said, the most compelling reason for hand tools is their beauty. A well made tool is a joy and a pleasure to use. You rejoice in the product of your physical labor rather than that of a machine. I have a pretty large collection of old handsaws that are still in great shape and work perfectly that are nothing short of works of art. They were hand made by artisans who took pride in their work, and it shows.
Using these kinds of tools shapes my mind in good ways. Since I am used to doing things the hard way, I don’t consider the easiest way to tackle a house or remodel, but the best way. I feel much more attached to the project and carpentry becomes a much more spiritual calling than just a 9-5 job. I love my tools and I look forward to passing them on to my Grandson. (I’m 24, that’s a ways off.)

28 Kevin R Connally March 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Also, when I was in high school, I was something of a Luddite and never used a calculator except for Trig. I haven’t been in a math class in years and I’m still faster doing math in my head or on paper than my friends with calculators.

29 Brett McKay March 27, 2012 at 12:26 am


One of the most interesting studies described in The Shallows is one where two groups of people were asked to solve puzzles on a computer. One group got helpful software that gave hints about which moves to make, while the other group did not. At first the group with the helpful software completed the puzzles faster, but by the end the group without the software was doing the puzzles faster and making less mistakes. It was because they were forced to learn the underlying strategy at work in the puzzles, while the group with the software ended up relying on it and just operating by clicking around and using trial and error.

30 Stephen Wood March 27, 2012 at 4:03 am

Fantastic article. Unfortunately all new technologies seem to come and take away something personal from our lives. Where is there a healthy line? I want the convenience of prepared food, but I also want the ancient wisdom gained from working the land.

31 jesse laramee March 27, 2012 at 8:17 am

I was just writing a critique of Carrs original article in one of my upper level courses. I read his article and thought about all of the things i have read about on AOM and disagreed with him. Carr Claims that traditional reading is being lost and i remembered Theodore Roosevelt reading his book before breakfast! Speed reading has been around for a while i don’t think we are loosing anything, especially if we implement Crossfit of the Brain!! BTW I am a Crossfit Instructor so i enjoyed the comparison!! Thanks Guys

32 Hollis March 27, 2012 at 12:34 pm

This really is a fascinating idea. I work at a computer all day, doing very mind numbing, mundane tasks, and in the 15 months I’ve held this job, I’ve felt a consistent decline in the ability to get my brain working when I need to. Reading is now a chore, but I used to love it. I think I’m going to try and make reading more of a priority, and read less online. Maybe I’ll actually read the Sunday paper, and not get the news from a website.

I think this can be expanded into more than just tools. I think the choices you make and how you choose to spend your time come back and change you. I am prone to think that I can choose whatever I want and the only effect from that choice is in the present. For example: I want to go out and drink tonight. My thought is that that is a one time choice, I will do what I want tonight and tomorrow I will be no different than I am now. And for a truly isolated, one time thing, that may be true. But the more I choose to do that, the more I will want to do that, the more I will choose that over other activities. Or say I want to go home after work and watch tv. The more I choose to go home and watch tv, the less likely I am in the future to go home and read, or go home and work out, or go home and finish that project I started.

So I think this idea of consciously choosing to exercise other parts of our brain works just as well for those bad habits we’re stuck in. Make a better decision once, and you’re more prone to make a better decision the next time. In time, you’ll find the bad habit is no longer a habit, and it would feel weird to even choose to do it.

33 Barbara Frank March 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I’ve had to trim back my Internet time (hard to do when it’s how you make your living) to balance it with hands-on work because of the distractibility symptoms you describe.

I think it’s especially urgent that we keep these principles in mind when it comes to our children. So many parents (and schools) push technology on young kids in an effort to keep them up to date. But kids can easily pick up tech skills as they get older. Right now they need to be reading and making things and playing outside. If we push tech skills to the exclusion of most other things, today’s kids will suffer from an even greater imbalance than their parents do. For our four kids, we found that homeschooling allowed them to keep computer time balanced with many other activities and learning experiences.

Excellent post!

34 The RMTC March 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Brett and Kate, thanks for the excellent post. I find myself floating from site to site….what was I saying?

Seriously though, I think Mormon missionaries would make an interesting case study on the wiring and un-wiring of the brain. They hardly use the internet for two years, possibly giving their brains a chance to rewire. But then they get home and return to their former internet ways. Interesting.

35 Kevin Daley March 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Excellent stuff. Often, I find myself writing very difficult code or math on paper to give my mind a break.

36 John B. March 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Great article,Brett! “Truer words were never spoken”!

37 peter March 28, 2012 at 8:02 am

here is another article which discusses the same idea in relation to how use of pornography effects sexual taste. very interesting and concerning.

38 dskzz March 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm

interesting though pessamistic. My job actually is to surf the web for a living. I am an ‘opposition researcher’. However my sort of web use tends to be following those tidbits of information through the rabbit hole warren that is the net. The work requires both an ability to skim, as the article says, and also process in depth. I have not felt any changes in my reading or concentrstion…if anything both my reading and writing skills are much sharper. Otoh, my tolerance for dealing with people has dropped sharply. Phon calls and meaningless conversation are the worst! I also have no patience for questions-all my answers are online! Curiously none of that applies to my gf. Our relationship is as strong as evet…could be I made real sure didn’t wind up with someone who annoys me.

39 Kyle March 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm

In a recent PEW piece on Gen Y and technology, consultant Barry Chudakov makes a point in line the arguments in this piece:
““Technology will be so seamlessly integrated into our lives that it will effectively disappear. The line between self and technology is thin today; by then it will effectively vanish. We will think with, think into, and think through our smart tools but their presence and reach into our lives will be less visible. Youth will assume their minds and intentions are extended by technology, while tracking technologies will seek further incursions into behavioral monitoring and choice manipulation. Children will assume this is the way the world works. The cognitive challenge children and youth will face (as we are beginning to face now) is integrity, the state of being whole and undivided. There will be a premium on the skill of maintaining presence, of mindfulness, of awareness in the face of persistent and pervasive tool extensions and incursions into our lives. Is this my intention, or is the tool inciting me to feel and think this way? That question, more than multitasking or brain atrophy due to accessing collective intelligence via the internet, will be the challenge of the future.”

40 jaklumen March 29, 2012 at 12:16 am

We live in a specialized world, and it would stand to reason that specialized emphasis in our current time leads to differences in the brain.

I don’t doubt computers have shaped my brain a lot; and I am often reminded I am much more obsessed than the average person. And yet, I realize: sometimes, a by-hand solution sometimes IS more convenient, more time-efficient, or sometimes it’s just more satisfying. Perhaps my younger colleagues might say I just haven’t discovered the real glories of mobile computing (I call such devices “thin clients”), but both have their time and place, this coming from a guy that read up on Getting Things Done and thinking that the “hipster PDA” method of using colored 3X5 index cards for this organizational practice/lifestyle was very strange.

41 Wang Warrior March 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I’m glad that I played Grand Theft Auto 3 as young as I did. I believe that’s how I learned to read maps and how to optimize path efficiency.

42 Carn March 31, 2012 at 11:42 am

Starting out I wondered what the deal was as I had none of the sorts of issues you associated with the internet till you got the “Reading Books” bit.

I always have been an avid reader and can eat 3 books a weak on an average week.

43 Emil J Lesner April 14, 2012 at 11:25 am

Brett, Kate, and Gus,
I am not a fast reader, hence getting through a book a week is a tall order. I am short of my pace to read 40 books this year. Mostly because they require more time and effort to finish.

44 Marques April 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Such a great article, thanks guys!

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