Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Intellectual Evolution

Friday, December 05, 2008

Intellectual Evolution

While we were away at Thanksgiving, we had a chance to catch up on some back issues of Macleans, a national newsmagazine in Canada. There were a number of interesting tidbits, but one article in particular caught my attention. I'd expected to get to it over the holiday and never did, but I'd better highlight it soon before it's completely stale.

In its issue immediately following the U.S. presidential election, Macleans ran a fascinating article on how current technology is contributing to an actual rewiring our brains. This is more pronounced in children and youth than in adults, and the rate of change is astonishing.

In the process of navigating so much frenetic brain activity, kids are rewiring their brains, customizing them for speed and multi-tasking. But in reinforcing the neural pathways for these skills, some neuroscientists suspect they've been suppressing others—creating the very kinds of problems, albeit in a subtler form, teachers are seeing at the Arrowsmith School.

Every new technology--from books to television--has brought with it fears of a resulting mind-melt. The difference, in the case of digital technologies, says Dr. Gary Small, a renowned neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, is the unprecedented pace and rate of change. It is creating what he calls a "brain gap" between young and old, forged in a single generation. "Perhaps not since early man first discovered how to use a tool," Small writes in his new book, iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind, "has the human brain been affected so quickly and so dramatically."

There's quite a bit of other details in the article, and the implications are intriguing. If these alterations are legitimate, will they continue exponentially? Will our grandchildren's brains work in a substantially different ways than ours do? What will be the unintended consequences. Will the next generation relate to their world in ways we don't even imagine today? Hmmmm . . .


At 10:50 PM, December 06, 2008, Blogger Stevie T said...

Whatever changes there are, they can't be good. It took evolution a long time to optimize our brains, and big changes can't spell anything but danger.


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