We’re Getting Dumber: GTD and Tech

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
GTD Summit guest Post by Ryan Heathers

I sure hope not. I do recall my junior-high math teacher making an encouraging conjecture. She speculated that people are much less intelligent today than, oh, 5,000 years ago. The reason: genetic decline. You might say the gene pool just ain’t what it used to be.

But perhaps another threat to intelligent thought is lurking…


At the Summit, Ismael Ghalimi declared that, “Twitter is pure evil”. I heard a similar sentiment echoed by many of the speakers.

Two reasons I can see for making such a strong statement about Twitter: it can be an endless stream of distraction and it can promote quick, thoughtless blurbs.

To be fair, I’m singling Twitter out from a mass of new technologies that promote similar services, and pose similar problems. Twitter and others do offer some wonderful things. They lower the bar to sharing information. They allow people to have a voice. I personally use Twitter every day and mostly love it.

But I am troubled by some effects of convenient information sharing. I wonder if we are losing our ability to ponder. Our ability to think deeply and critically.

Perhaps we need to have scheduled breaks from these technologies not just for productivity reasons, but for brain development reasons.
James Fallows of the Atlantic discussed this aptly during the Summit, “Distractions and churn are the enemies of elevated thought”.    

Discussion/Comments (5):

Graham Dodge (http://www.bcd.net.au): 04/07/2009 19:49:13
We’re Getting Dumber: GTD and Tech

Amen... the only thing sadder than me spending every microsecond telling you about what I'm doing is the thought that you might be spending every microsecond reading about it.

I just don't understand the attraction.

Chris Mobley (http://www.bleedyellow.com/blogs/uhclem/): 04/08/2009 5:42:24
We’re Getting Dumber: GTD and Tech

You have hit the nail on the head. This is exactly what has been my struggle with Twitter. It is lowering the bar. We are losing the concept of meaningful conversation.

There was a time when, during a greeting, someone asks "How are you?", and they actually cared about the answer. It has been reduced to an obligatory greeting, with an equally obligatory response of "fine".

I try to think about the "value add" of the tweet I am twittering. This is probably why I don't twitter very much.

Thomas Schulte (http://www.welovenotesbut.com/blog): 04/08/2009 8:42:42
We’re Getting Dumber: GTD and Tech

The signal/noise ratio in those types of social media is to much noise and not enough signal.

And the signal is degenerating faster and faster every day.

So some one has to build a noise filter for twitter to separate "valid" content from noise. It is the same problem you have with every type of social media.

Even in the "good old days" where you had no computer but only letters and phones you had the same effect. It was slower but you had it. The difference today is that it is so much "cheaper" in terms of money to spend and time to invest to produce noise.

Bill Greenberg - Good Computer Guy (http://blog.goodcomputerguy.com): 04/08/2009 11:51:28
We’re Getting Dumber: GTD and Tech

I definitely agree. Unfortunately I don't thing Twitter is going away. But I just can't figure it out. I've tried 3 times to make use of it, and after a few days each time I pretty much give up. I don't know what I'm missing. I just read articles on how to follow large numbers of people but... I still just don't get it.

Eric Mack (http://www.EricMackOnLine.com): 04/08/2009 12:16:12
In what ways has twitter made you MORE productive?

Eric here, commenting on Ryan Heather's guest post. Ryan asks some good questions. My personal experience with Twitter has been a positive one and worth the effort. I would even say that for the purposes I use it, Twiiter makes me more productive. So, since this blog s about productivity, let me propose this question: In what ways has Twitter made you more productive?

Discussion for this entry is now closed.