Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Mind-BlackBerry Problem:

Last month, 25 people died and 130 were injured in a train crash near Los Angeles. The cause, apparently, was a cell phone. In three hours of work before the crash, one of the engineers received 28 text messages and sent 29 more. He sent his last message 22 seconds before impact, just after passing a signal that would have alerted him to the disaster ahead.

Scientists call this phenomenon "cognitive capture" or "inattention blindness." The mind, captured by the world inside the phone, becomes blind to the world outside it. Millions of people move among us in this half-absent state. Mentally, they're living in another world. It's like the Rapture, except that they've left their bodies behind.

You see them everywhere. The woman alone in the grocery store, a bud in her ear, having an animated conversation with a wall of canned soup. The driver who drifts into your lane while counseling an invisible client. The jogger crossing four lanes of traffic, lost in her iPod. The dad who ignores his kids, living in his BlackBerry the way an alcoholic lives in a bottle.

10:52 PM