Multitasking, for better or for worse

jean claude
The fact is that “technology will constantly push us to go with it, to make the best out of the digital devices’ raw power,” while we will also be pressured by life and work to do as much as possible in the shortest possible time,” writes Jordan News columnist Jean-Claude Elias. (Photo: Unsplash)
Originally, multitasking referred to the ability of digital devices to run more than one task at once. Alongside speed of processing, it is one of the essential, inherent technical characteristics of the machines that shows their real power.اضافة اعلان

Indeed, when you speak of a computer’s power, saying how fast it can work (typically in gigahertz) is not enough; You also need to specify how many tasks it can run simultaneously. This, after all, is plain logic.

Today all computers are multitasking, it’s understood. Not just big servers, but even common, consumer-level laptop models and humble tablets and smartphones.

With time, and as past years have shown us, the machines will continue to be faster and have increased multitasking capability. Is this a good thing? Yes, of course it is. We can use the most powerful devices that technology can design and manufacture.

What has happened, however, is that this trait, this special and efficient way of working, came upon us slowly, year after year, without us taking notice of it, almost insidiously.

Today, we find ourselves answering a phone call, and at the same time reading an email or an SMS, checking the weather forecast through a mobile app, playing music on a streaming service, while uninvited pop-up screens aggressively appear on our device screen to tell us that our favorite shopping mall is offering a 6 percent discount just for the day or displaying the updated number of COVID-19 cases in our city. Even worse, more pop-up screens may appear at the same time to force us to update whatever software we may be running. And it all happens because the machines can do it.

Worst of all, this may take place while you really need to focus and give all your attention to a critical document you may be writing or to numbers you may be processing in an Excel sheet, and you wish all the other tasks would just leave you alone and working in peace.

To describe human beings’ ability to multitask and work parallel to the machines, to compete with them somehow, a new term has been introduced: supertaskers. Understandably, the whole matter and its eventual impact on us, on our brain, is attracting scholars and already is the subject of intensive scientific and academic research. Among some of the early findings are that we are not equal and that some people are better supertaskers than others.

What is the possible brain damage? What are the short-term and long-term consequences? Doesn’t multitasking affect the quality of our work in the end? Doesn’t it add to our daily dose of stress? Is it possible for a person to perform several tasks at one time and still produce optimum results in all of them? Computers certainly can, but what about human beings?

Whereas this may be a long debate, perhaps we can evaluate one of the most obvious, simplest forms of multitasking, one we encounter every day and involves two tasks: driving and making phone calls. Regardless of what the law says and to what degree drivers abide, we know that a large part of the population does it. We also know how distracted a driver can be when using the phone while driving and the dire consequences that may follow.

The fact is that, on one hand, technology will constantly push us to go with it, to make the best out of the digital devices’ raw power and multitasking ability it is bringing us, and that on the other hand we are pressured by life, by work, by financial need, to do as much as possible in the shortest possible time.

The probability is that this state of affairs would eventually negatively affect our brain, our psychological well-being, and that it may also result in less-than-perfect quality of work.

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