According to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, today’s hyperconnected youth will shun deep engagement with people; they will lack critical thinking skills and face-to-face social skills, seeking instead instant gratification and depending on mobile devices to function.
The Pew Center report leaves you with one concrete conclusion: ambiguity.
And that’s no surprise. The data comes from a survey of about 1,000 Internet experts from universities, think tanks, research groups and companies. And as expected, the responses were largely circumstantial. Respondents who opted-into the survey see different swaths of tech-affected teens. Of course, teachers have one of the closest views of the ADD-afflicted. Among some of the comments, “I have horror stories about the lack of attention,” says one educator. “I have seen a decline in higher-order thinking skills over the past decade,” another teacher laments.
Other respondents weren’t nearly as gloomy.
One anonymous surveyer indicated that young brains are better able to assimilate software structure, to organize and resolve complex problems more quickly. “They will operate at a much quicker rate in terms of decision-making, analysis and methodology.”
Whether or not you fall on either side of the camp, there is a very interesting thread that emerges from this report: how will society value and reward deep thinking?
Stephen Masiclat, a communications professor at Syracuse University, says the shift from the now to focusing on what’s next naturally devalues retrospection and its benefits. As a result, social incentives for deep engagement may erode.
Marjory Blumental, a provost at Georgetown University takes that thought even further.
Perhaps the issue is, how will deep thinking get done—including by whom—rather than will everyone be able to do deep thinking,” she says. In fact, division of labor may change.
And how will deep thinking get done in a visual-oriented, fast-twitch environment?
What will these new “knowledge workers” look like? And what would even be the point of a knowledge worker if all that rumination fell on shallow ears?