Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Google Generation

We now live in the Age of the Answer, whereas only 10 years ago we still inhabited the Age of the Question. Adults who use Google do so with a critical and analytical conceptual framework that we learned as kids as we sought answers in books and by asking people. Kids use Google without this capacity for discernment, classification and selection of information because they have not yet had the opportunity to learn it.

Acclaimed neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, spoke today about the evolutionary change humans are currently experiencing. Our brains have an incredibly plastic response to our environments. Studies show that kids in Western cultures now spend an average of 6 hours per day interacting with a screen. In order to learn effective social skills such as empathy, we need warm human connection and contact as children.

She put forward an idea that is very interesting to contemplate. We humans tend to santitise corporeal interactions. Once upon a time not so long ago, every person who ate meat had something to do with the catching and killing, that is, the messiness of it. We are now disconnected from the physical reality of catching and killing the animals we eat; it is presented to us neatly packaged in styrofoam. Just as we now go 'euwww' at the thought of skinning a cow, so too, in the future, we may go 'euwww' at the thought of engaging in communication that involves physicality, preferring our clean controlled on-line personas. Belly-to-belly contact involves pheronomes, body language and heaps of unconscious stuff that is difficult and makes us uncomfortable, it takes time to learn how to do it well.

Heard today on the radio program All In The Mind on ABC Radio National

Download Allinthemind_ABCRadioNational_Susan_Greenfield.mp3 (30 mins 14.1kb)

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