Man’s development of a robust cerebral cortex and making use of it to create symbols for objects, converting them into language and eventually writing them down, is largely what separates us from the apes.
The long attention span responsible for creativity and deep thought formed over time as people became more civilized, and the focus of life went from hunting rabbits to the more intellectual tasks of art, literature and diplomacy.
I recently read a study suggesting that the internet has the negative effect of reducing people to a stone-age mentality, thanks to the short attention span typically needed to multi-task and process information quickly while online.
For some reason, this phenomenon brings to mind the fable of the rocket ship that traveled to a destination so distant that it took more than one generation to get there and back. There were so few complexities to life that the children of the astronauts only needed to push the right button to operate the ship. When they got back to earth, that’s all they were capable of doing.
This makes me think of modern kids and their X-boxes, PS2s and Wiis. I am as guilty as anyone else of allowing my relatively intelligent kids to become comatose in front of these devices, in part because it frees up time that I would normally spend parenting, and I can spend a few minutes longer online.
Do we want a future of Platos, or Elmer Fudds? The choice might be ours.