Living in a Perpetual State of Distraction

Is the internet rotting our brains? Probably not, but it does seem to be changing the way we think. So what is the internet doing to our brains?

The video in this post gives us a few clues.

Most of us are on the Internet on a daily basis and whether we like it or not, the Internet is affecting us. It changes how we think, how we work, and it even changes our brains.

We interviewed Nicholas Carr, the author of, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” about how the Internet is influencing us, our creativity, our thought processes, our ideas, and how we think.

Can we afford to continue crowding out opportunities to think and reflect?

Do you manage to take time out from the constant assault of the online world or do you even sleep with some kind of device next to you?

How often do you disconnect and ponder the bigger issues?

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I Blame Google

Are you finding it harder to remember things? I know that I’ve noticed myself searching harder for a word or name a little more often recently.

I thought it was just that I was getting older but I’ve found out that I can blame it all on Google. I thought Google was my friend, the keeper of all knowledge, but a study, led by psychologist Betsy Sparrow, an assistant professor from Columbia University, has found that while the internet gives us immediate and constant access to information, we’re becoming more dependent on it as our own personal memory.

Apparently we don’t feel we have to remember things any more because it’s all at our fingertips on our computers, smart phones, iPads or other devices.

Sparrow’s research reveals that we forget things we are confident we can find on the Internet. We are more likely to remember things we think are not available online. And we are better able to remember where to find something on the Internet than we are at remembering the information itself. This is believed to be the first research of its kind into the impact of search engines on human memory organization.

Sparrow’s paper in Science is titled, “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips.” With colleagues Jenny Liu of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Daniel M. Wegner of Harvard University, Sparrow explains that the Internet has become a primary form of what psychologists call transactive memory—recollections that are external to us but that we know when and how to access. – Colombia Research

The idea of relying on an external ‘memory’ isn’t new. A lot of people can’t remember birthdays and anniversaries because they know that their spouse has taken care of all that information. When we believe that access to the information we require is readily available we tend not to commit the details to memory.

I wonder if you’ve noticed that yourself. Are you forgetting things a little more often? Have you perhaps discovered ways to keep your memory active? Who remembers birthdays at your place? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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CATS in Perth

CATSIt sometimes takes a while for me to get around to catching up with the rest of the world. CATS first opened in the West End in 1981 and then on Broadway in 1982. Almost thirty years later I finally got around to seeing a production of the musical for the first time.

CATS is now showing at the Burswood Theatre in Perth.

Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, CATS is based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot and has won many awards, including both the Laurence Olivier Award and the Tony Award for Best Musical. The London production ran for twenty one years and the Broadway production ran for eighteen years, both setting long-run records. CATS has been performed around the world and has been translated into more than 20 languages.

I didn’t really know what to expect when Pauline and I turned up at Burswood last Tuesday for the opening night performance. I picked up our tickets at the box office and we were ushered to our third row seats. We were seated several minutes early which gave us time to appreciate the amazing set. In case you’re one of the few other people in the world who haven’t seen CATS I don’t think I’d be giving much away to tell you that the show is set in a massive rubbish tip. The designers have done an incredible job in creating a visually stunning backdrop for the show.

Once the show got underway we were captivated. CATS is incredibly physical and the performers combined extremely energetic dancing with challenging vocals and perfect timing.

I thought that as the night went on I might recognise a few of the songs, but in the end, it was only the wonderful Memory that I recognised. Mind you, that wasn’t really a problem. While some songs were more enjoyable than others, most generated an instant connection.

I don’t have the voice to sing the songs the cast sang. I don’t have the moves to dance like the cast can dance. I certainly don’t have the body to be able to wear the skin tight outfits worn by the cast. Thankfully the performers had it all.

While I considered that some scenes were a little over sensuous, the show overall is magnificent. If you get the opportunity, get out and see CATS so you can create a memory or two of your own.

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Careful, They Might Hear You

goldfish.jpgDon’t mention any of your passwords while you’re standing near the fish tank. You may come home to find your computer’s been hijacked by your goldfish.

You might feel safe talking about private matters near your pet fish, thinking that they will have forgotten all about it in six seconds, but don’t be fooled, they do remember and it took a 15 year old named Rory Stokes to prove it.

Rory’s findings were reported a couple of days ago in this article at He proved that pet fish have a memory that lasts at least six days and possibly longer.

A 15-year-old South Australian school student has busted the myth that goldfish have a three second memory.

Rory Stokes, from the Australian Science and Mathematics School in Adelaide, conducted an experiment to test the commonly held theory that goldfish have short memory spans.

I always knew that the short term memory thing was an urban legend. The fish in the big tank at work rush towards the glass when they see a human heading their way first thing in the morning. They know that a human will feed them in the morning. Once they’ve been fed they ignore any other people wandering past for the rest of the day.

One of the things Rory wanted to demonstrate is that it’s cruel to keep fish in small tanks. The short term memory theory was always a good excuse when people wanted to put fish into a tiny container. They would use the excuse that fish weren’t aware of their cramped environment becuase it looked new to them every six seconds.

I will admit that I’ve never understood the attraction of keeping fish anyway. I think they make a darn good meal but they’re not my idea of a pet.

Now all we need is to find a way for fish to communicate with us. They might then be able to remind us of the things we forget. If their memory lasts for six days or more, that’s about five and a half days longer than some people can remember where they’ve left their keys.

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