Sunday, February 26, 2012

This blog is now all about things that make you stupid. Apparently.

Last post we talked about a flurry of studies that confirm what anyone who works in an office already knows -- that meetings make people stupid. Actually, I think some people believe everyone in the meeting is stupid except them, but they've probably been in too many meetings.*

Then last week I ran across this little gem. Apparently, being interrupted by a cellphone ringing will also interfere with mental processes, and its worse if the ringtone is a song you know. They use BeyoncĂ©’s "Single Ladies" as an example, but in that case the biggest distraction for me would probably be the pain from trying to scratch my eardrums with a pencil.

Again, this is no surprise, but it does say something about what drives our society, and possibly about what's important to employers. There was a time when making a personal phone call, or interrupting an important meeting with trivia, could get one fired. Or at least on the boss' shit list. But the last business luncheon I attended featured a former colleague talking for 20 minutes on the best ways to use Twitter at the office. People not only expect cellphones to ring in meetings, they seem to expect people to answer them.

This all reminds me of a quote from a Japanese industrialist I heard a couple of decades ago. He said, "In Japan, we make things. In America, you used to make things. Now you just push money around." Except now it's information we are pushing around. One person somewhere has an original thought and 80 million people try to disseminate it as fast as they can. I suppose there is value there, but it seems hollow somehow, and at least for me, unsatisfying.

I'm sure the hive mind will prove to be more productive than the individual in the long run. And people won't feel the same sense of disquiet about the constantly connected world that I do, any more than I could share my grandfather's distrust of airplanes. But I am built for quiet contemplation, and it's not the world for me.

* I wonder if it's some sort of natural selection that has created the current "anti-meeting" culture in higher education. There are a thousand committees, but they rarely meet. And when they do, the only people who attend are those who absolutely required.


  1. i'm not sure about 'hive mentality' raising the outcome... i believe dumbing-down is more likely to result if you're going for consensus. have you seen the film "Idiocracy"?

  2. Committee meetings make me yearn for a quick, painless death.