The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

But we are losing our ability to spell

I like to piggyback on others' work. It's easier, I don't have to do quite as much thinking, and all I am giving up is my own uniqueness. Not that I had much, mind you. This is why I often peruse the news for ideas for a post. I also browse other blogs with the same goal in mind. Not a primary goal, mind you, that would be wrong (as Nixon once said... while doing wrong) but as a secondary interest. Let's call it consulting the muses, shall we?

So, I was looking around this cool (cold... to us here in Paradise) morning to entertain, to learn, and perchance to steal an idea or two. And I glanced through some articles I haven't read from a blog to which I subscribe (note proper grammar... I rarely get it right). The blog is called The Scientific Fundamentalist and is written by an "evolutionary scientist" and posted on the Psychology Today website.

I am fascinated by psychology. I suppose that is because I have, at the very least, questioned my sanity on a daily basis. But also because I wonder why I do the things I do and in the way that I do them. I am very curious about how and why my brain works.

To stop digressing, I came across this one entitled Why the New Hands-Free Texting App Will Not Reduce Car Accidents.

Setting aside the question of excessively long titles, the article tries to get at the heart of why texting contributes to accident rates. The author (and he is joined by a great many on this) maintains that the accidents attributed to texting and to cell phone usage in cars are really a problem of of the device being held in the hands but 'the use of the brain for an evolutionarily novel, “unnatural” behavior of communicating with a person who is not present.' Note that he writes "evolutionarily novel" and not simply "unnatural". I would have used "extraneous" in place of "unnatural" but I do not qualify as a psychologist (or much of anything important, for that matter).

His point (I am getting around to it, honest) is that we have not adapted our brains to handle this unique form of communication yet. I believe he feels that cell phones, even phones, have been around long enough for our psychological handling of them to incorporate them into how we interact on multiple levels.

We are, after all, multi-tasking animals. We can read and listen, we can perform tasks and contemplate (seemingly) unrelated concepts or future tasks. We can do this without overly impacting our performance of the task at hand. I think we learn this ability as we grow up or maybe we just use a natural adaptability to do so. We obviously cannot pass on modern tool usage through genetics. We can, I believe, pass on a propensity for grasping various concepts genetically however.

I like to use golf analogies so I will. In golf, you perform certain skills, many of them are entirely mental. I will use "putting" for my analogy. In order to putt, the player must calculate a complex formula in his mind without realizing it. He must ascertain the proper speed of the putt, the direction of the putt, and any "break" (curvature in the path) in the putt. He must do this without testing the surface with his hands. He "feels" the hardness of the green through his shoes, he "sees" the break in the general path and calculates an aim point for the putt, he then calculates the precise (or near precise) effort his muscles must extert to make all this come together. Few do this anywhere near perfectly, more putts miss than go in the hole. There are similar calculations made to strike a ball and send it 150 yards, for example, in the direction of the green. For amateurs, these things go wrong most of the time. For professionals, they go right the majority of the time.

I first noticed this ability to calculate angle, speed, and power when I was learning to shoot serious pool at age 16. It is an innate ability in all animals, I believe, and not just a human trait. Humans merely extended it to complex (and manufactured) tool usage. We have it so ingrained in our lives that we rarely think about it. In fact, we take it for granted. Still, some of us are perhaps better adapted (call it "better evolved" psychologically) for some of these calculations. Think of the boy (or girl) who is referred to as a "natural athlete." Think of aptitude testing.

Think about how your teenager can watch TV, text his friends, and annoy his baby brother at the same time. Think of my inane digression.

We have the ability to multi-task, we learn to use a wider variety of tools.

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