Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Ok, I'm a techie. I've worked with systems for over 35 years so I know a little. Because of this, I read, with a bit of bemusement,  this little gem from the NY Times titled Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime, something I have known about for some quite time.

Digital devices, particularly smart phones, are time killers to the max. They are fun and addictive as I have come to find out with my Droid, a time killer supreme (iPhone, Blackberry, HTC, the list goes on and on and on.) as it is the first computer you take with you EVERYWHERE, begging to be attended to without regard for you or your grey matter but...

without recharging your brain, the creative act doesn't happen. Without sleep or breaks from digital noise or constant concentration to said smart phone (or any other system), the brain cannot create. It's similar to the lack of sleep, without it, we die. The same inability to get away from the vagaries of the world (via day dreaming etc.) also applies to work. Without respite, nothing of worth gets done.

"Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”

At the University of Michigan, a study found that people learned significantly better after a walk in nature than after a walk in a dense urban environment, suggesting that processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued.

Even though people feel entertained, even relaxed, when they multitask while exercising, or pass a moment at the bus stop by catching a quick video clip, they might be taxing their brains, scientists say.

“People think they’re refreshing themselves, but they’re fatiguing themselves,” said Marc Berman, a University of Michigan neuroscientist.

After reading this, one readily sees how never ending interaction with systems turns people into really boring entities unable to think in innovative ways. (Texting or iPod equipped with earbuds come to mind here.) How do I know this? From direct experience as tech is very seductive, a seeming escape from reality but not really.

From that perspective, I cycle, without anything electronic on the bike, just gears, tires, wheels and bike frame, rolling sculpture technical to the max but nary a gadget in place telling me my speed, heart rate or power output per pedal stroke, esoteric data I don't need while being in the world but not of it.

Sounds like Zen doesn't it?
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