The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory (英語) ハードカバー – 2008/11/7
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As the pace of technological change accelerates, we are increasingly experiencing a state of information overload. Statistics show that we are interrupted every three minutes during the course of the work day. Multitasking between email, cell-phone, text messages, and four or five websites while listening to an iPod forces the brain to process more and more informaton at greater and greater speeds. And yet the human brain has hardly changed in the last 40,000 years.
Are all these high-tech advances overtaxing our Stone Age brains or is the constant flood of information good for us, giving our brains the daily exercise they seem to crave? In The Overflowing Brain, cognitive scientist Torkel Klingberg takes us on a journey into the limits and possibilities of the brain. He suggests that we should acknowledge and embrace our desire for information and mental challenges, but try to find a balance between demand and capacity. Klingberg explores the cognitive demands, or "complexity," of everyday life and how the brain tries to meet them. He identifies different types of attention, such as stimulus-driven and controlled attention, but focuses chiefly on "working memory," our capacity to keep information in mind for short periods of time. Dr Klingberg asserts that working memory capacity, long thought to be static and hardwired in the brain, can be improved by training, and that the increasing demands on working memory may actually have a constructive effect: as demands on the human brain increase, so does its capacity.
The book ends with a discussion of the future of brain development and how we can best handle information overload in our everyday lives. Klingberg suggests how we might find a balance between demand and capacity and move from feeling overwhelmed to deeply engaged.
[The Overflowing Brain] is a highly sane look at the increasingly insane demands of the information age. (Publishers Weekly)
Klingberg does his best to keep the material accessible, with lots of anecdotes... (Washington Post)
...[The Overflowing Brain] has a scholarly tone, but Klingberg provides a good balance between the science and the practical...An interesting book... (Sacramento Book Review)
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I agree with another poster who commented on the fact that "Linda," Klingberg's fictitious, sample employee suffering from massive distractions in her work environment, was not carried throughout the book and was conveniently diagnosed with ADHD. Linda's work environment sounded almost exactly like most open work environments that I've experienced. I do not have ADHD so it would have been helpful if his sample employee was like the rest of us...fighting distractions to get our work done and looking for ways to minimize the attention deficit trait generated by our increasingly digital environments.
There didn't really seem to be a conclusion or final thoughts to the book--nothing to tie up the loose ends. I was surprised to find myself at the end of the book and at the start of the notes section. I was left with a feeling of "that's it?" It sounds like much of this research is still so new that there are many unknowns requiring further research. The notes and reference section were not well formatted for Kindle. They were deeply indented in the text which might work well for a printed book but not the electronic version. This made reading the notes tedious and not worth the time to wade through them. This is unfortunate since there is usually great supplemental information located in these sections.
I would say this book is more for the curious, scientifically minded who are keen to explore the subject further than anyone looking for a more practical solution in an easy going read.
In 1994, I was struck by the scene in the film Little Women (Collector's Series) where Laurie receives the day's communication: his butler delivers a letter on a plate. This was just as I was starting to receive action items by not just mail and phone, but also fax, voicemail and a few cyber communications from email pioneers.
Torkel Klingberg examines how the brain... the same brain as Laurie with the single letter delivered on a tray... is managing all of this. One advantage: the average brain of today has a higher IQ. It has been rising, at least since 1900, in countries such as Israel, Belgium, Norway, Holland and the US at the rate of 3% a decade. It is interesting that while problem solving ability has risen, there is no evidence that vocabulary and other knowledge acquisition components have.
This is a short pithy book. For its size a lot is devoted to the differences in working and long term memory. It is clear and precise regarding the research and its strengths and limitations on what can potentially enhance working memory which is the portal to long term memory.
Klingberg discusses the issues surrounding memory enhancing and repressing drugs which are currently in development. He does not speculate about the people of third world nations where IQ may or may not be rising to meet this challenge. He does not discuss evolutional adaptations that may or may not be happening or anticipated. He produces a solid book on limited but solid ground.