Imagine a young
trying to work out one of those famous equations of motion or Wordsworth thinking up Daffodils or Bach composing one of his gems while answering the cellphone while zooming down the highway on a motorbike. Newton
I had a little argument via email with my thoughtful ex-student Navin the other day about the wonders of the internet, and then I read this article about the epidemic of multi-tasking (also see the New York Times article mentioned therein). I hope everybody will notice that a writer and a medical-school teacher have complained equally vociferously about exactly the same thing. Look them up, all, then get back to me.
I can vouchsay that everything from new publications being full of howlers and typos (which I never saw in books of the 1940s and 60s, though the proofreaders had no computers to help them!) to botched surgical operations to bankers messing up statements of accounts to third-grade essays being written by high school pupils to the alarming rise in road accidents to the fact that kids these days cannot remember things they ‘learnt’ three months ago while those of our generation and older can easily call back what we were taught many decades ago – all this can be laid at the door of this multitasking scourge, to which the mobile-net addiction contributes mightily. Think: what kind of a romance can you have, even, when the so-called lovers meet up only to check messages from their respective friends every two minutes? Who says it’s just an unrelated accident that so many of my ex-students have already broken up with their spouses within a year or two of marriage?
I thank God that I can still enforce the no-mobile-phones-in-my-class rule very strictly, and I pity the schoolteachers who cannot (as is now true in many places). They are wasting time on those who have become incapable of learning anything (so many ex-students who are in college now solemnly assure me it is impossible to pass examinations without cheating!) I shudder to think of the world of the 2030s, when all the people in their prime will be like this: a thousand grasshoppers jumping around in their heads all the time, hopelessly incapable of concentrating on any one serious occupation for more than five minutes, whether it be a debate or a piece of engineering design or driving a car or listening to music. Already people are blasé about getting run over by trains and buses while talking into their phones, and utterly shameless about texting away at an office meeting – I only wonder how much worse things are going to get. How much longer before parents by the millions ‘forget’ to bring home their children at night (as they are right now forgetting to pay their wards’ school fees), and surgeons ‘forgetting’ to sew up after operations? Looking at the kids whom I teach today, I can assert that such a scenario has now become entirely plausible. In this connection, also look up this post on my other blog.