Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Multitasking? Every One Of Us Does It Daily

I was multi-tasking while crossing the street today, and not worrying at all about being hit by a car. Amazing what I can do when I put my mind to it.

Tasks: (1) Walking, (2) Moving my eyes to the right for traffic, (3) Also moving my head, (4) Digesting my lunch, (5) Keeping my balance. That’s not even counting things like heartbeat, respiration, eye blinks, etc.

All this and not even consciously thinking about it. We multi-task so well except when it comes to the conscious level. Then we really mess up.

A few years ago, I was coming back from the newspaper and heard a horrid crash. I turned around to see a pickup had head-butted the back end of a city bus. The pickup driver was astonished; “I’m completely at fault,” he said, “I was talking on a cell phone and never even saw the bus.”

Odd, how we can drive almost without thinking, use the fine motor skills in our right foot to make small changes in our vehicle’s speed, steer slightly or corner, enjoy the radio . . . but when something occupies our conscious mind, we can drive into a bus.

Yet our brain never messes up. It does not confuse our breathing, heart and eyeblink rates. We don’t get out of bed and start walking on our hands, don’t try to gnaw trees. Somehow, the unconscious or the automatic seems to have it all ahead of the conscious. I wonder what would happen if our kidneys or our liver could use a cellphone?


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