@USAtoday on Neurology, Technology, and Books

Another nice write-up surrounding Carr’s “The Shallows”

Amplify’d from www.usatoday.com
Always-on technology
Everyone knows that our digital age — from the always-on Web to our bleeping PDAs — is here to stay.
But just how detrimental to our powers of concentration is our penchant for ping-ponging around the Web and digesting each new tweet?
One big triumph of human culture was the learned ability to pay attention to one thing for a long time, which the arrival of the book helped promote
But the Internet is about skimming and scanning and de-emphasizes our shifting into deeply attentive modes.
Before anyone heaves a PC out the window and retreats to a cave, let it be known that Carr has his detractors. Their point in a nutshell (in case you’ve got a call coming in): From the printing press to television, all new technologies arrive with dire warnings of societal doom (“That TV will rot your brain!” anyone?), and yet humanity sifts out the good and marches on. And so we shall again.
“No question that Carr is driving one of the biggest debates about technology next to privacy issues,” says Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which recently surveyed 895 tech titans about Carr’s thesis and other topics. An overwhelming 75% believed that by 2020, people’s use of the Internet will have enhanced human intelligence.
“The consensus was that new skills will be elevated, such as our ability to hunt for information and look for patterns in broad data,” says Rainie, who, like many of the technorati, started pondering this issue after reading Carr’s opening salvo, a 2008 article in The Atlantic provocatively titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

Can we do it?

Human brain adapts

Most tech pundits don’t dispute that our digital times are changing the way our brains operate, much the same way our noggins had to adapt when, in the mid-15th century, the printing press began making reading available to the masses. So what they prefer to discuss is our behavioral response to the 21st century’s equivalent of Gutenberg’s Renaissance-era creation.

“What we’re really talking about here is a cultural argument, questions such as whether we’ll read fewer novels now that information is bite-size,” says Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, which explores the act of decision-making at a neurological level.

“More and more young people seem to be disconnected from the physical world,” he says. “There’s less time at play in the park, and more time absorbed in devices. It would be helpful if they knew that what they’re doing does impact their neurology.”

“So for every stat you see about how video games can improve certain mental facilities,” Small says, “we should all be aware of the importance of taking breaks, turning off devices and simply talking in person.”

Sarah Parks, 28, a physician’s assistant from Watertown, Mass., says she has mixed feelings about growing up bombarded by technology.

On the one hand, “it’s great for doing things like paying bills while you’re getting your hair done, but it can also be annoying to go to dinner with a friend and see they’re more interested in their e-mail than talking to you,” she says. “So I try to pull myself away from my devices whenever I can.”

USF’s Merzenich applauds such focus. “Any kind of noise in the brain is negative, with long-term impacts on human health,” he says. “My advice is simple: Make sure what you’re doing online is productive, and don’t forget the real world. Go to the park every now and then and just look around. That’s closer to what the human mind was designed for, anyway.”

More people should just get up and go mow the lawn, says Carr, a Paul Revere for our Net age.

“Ultimately, we are all free agents and can make choices,” he says. “If you cherish those solitary moments, there’s nothing else to do but restrain yourself.”

Read more at www.usatoday.com


Brain and Tech Books

Amplify’d from www.usatoday.com
Clay Shirky,
author of the new book (and antipode to Carr’s thesis) Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.
Nicholas Car
, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.
Gary Small
author with Gigi Vorgan of iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind.Read more at www.usatoday.com

Increase Focus and Productivity with these Online Tools

In February CNN asked, “How Can We Cope with Information Overload?” The point of their article was to comment on the incredible state of information management one needs to perform in today’s environment of RSS feeds, blog posts, and social streams. To combat the pressure of information overload I’ve started this series of posts and plan to share a short list of tools and resources to help the online aficionado maintain high productivity and focus.

Decreasing the Noise, Dialing in on the Signal

I’ll start by saying, “there are a fair number of quality articles available that present solid advice on disconnecting and gaining focus in the hyper-active world of the social media practitioner and user.” Obviously, disconnecting for a long period of time isn’t always possible.

Some tools to consider…

Tungle.Me A Real-Time Calendar with Collaborative Features.

“Scheduling Made Easy” Tungle.me is a scheduling application that connects with your existing calendar. Invite others to schedule with you, without having to sign up. Easily schedule meetings, inside or outside your organization. Eliminate double-bookings, time zone mishaps and the back-and-forth of finding a time to meet.

“Tungle.me lets my friends and family see my calendar and add new events to it in a way that leaves me in total control. It’s a HUGE productivity increasing service!”
– Robert Scoble

RescueTime You Can Monitor the Time You Spend on Websites, Applications, and More.

RescueTime is a web-based time management and analytics tool for knowledge workers who want to be more efficient and productive. Find out more at Rescue Time.

RescueTime Time Tracking Overview from Tony Wright on Vimeo.

“…for those who are serious about increasing their efficiency and finally getting a handle on their technology-driven life. I give RescueTime an A+…” – The Tech Brief

Gist A Digital Rolodex with Influence Scores and User Data
I’ve written about Gist once before, now there is an android (as well as an iPhone) app to help you monitor your closest contacts. This really is a great application for seeing who I’m interacting with through my days; and it provides some great insights to help one better manage their time. Find out more about Gist and how it can help you simplify life online.

Gist overview by CEO T.A. McCann from Robert Pease on Vimeo.

“Gist allows me to cut through the noise and manage my contacts directly. I am able to monitor what matters… the relationship.”
Kevin Spidel

Post Rank Save Time and Increase Focus on What Matters with this in-board Article Grader

PostRank (formerly RSSAide) provides [for FireFox users] a way to grade existing feeds to help identify important articles in a users RSS reader. Basically, an in-the reader tool that places numbers from 1 to 10 next to content articles whether they be blog posts, news articles, podcasts, anything sent to you through an RSS feed. The grade allows you to see at a moment’s glance which articles are trending well, and which aren’t as well received. While no filter is quite like the human filter, PostRank provides a valuable service to those interested in maximizing productivity and time.

The PostRank data service can be used in many different ways. One example is filtering existing feeds to reduce the quantity of items a feed reader is presented. PostRank helps you engage with information that interests you. Read what matters and learn as much or as little as you want about topics, from every little bit to just the hottest news.

I hope you find something here that you’re able to use. The tools – like so much of the online space – do continue to evolve to better support user needs. If you have tools that you save time with please let us know about them. This is the first installment in a series of posts to discuss the use of filters in today’s online experience. Thanks for reading; and here’s to staying organized online!