Cognitive Computing is right around the corner.
It may serve to reduce the strain on your brain.
On the other hand, it might make it worse.
Be mindful about how you spend your connected time.
Get help if your hyperconnected existence is draining your brain.
IBM is predicting that within five years, computers will have the ability to hear what matters out of a conversation, will understand and interpret images, and will have the sense of smell. They tell us that you will be able to touch remote objects through your phone. These new machines will be able to anticipate our needs, according to Ray Kurzweil, who just joined Google as their Director of Engineering. The online applications he’s about to build will search for what you want before you even know you want it.
How Super! That sounds nifty, if you’re a connected human. And if you’re reading this, it’s probably because you are already connected, like you never were before. You enjoy the benefits that technology provides you. On some level, you realize how your capabilities are stretched and augmented by the connected devices you use. I’ll bet you’ve probably become dependent upon your computers, cell phones, and tablets to get some or many things done that you weren’t doing online just a few years ago. “And this is a good thing,” you think to yourself, as you read this by the glow of your phone at 3:00 am.
Obviously, connectivity like this has caused major changes in the way that our society works. And most of the time, we don’t really think about that impact. Hyperconnectivity, when done well, augments our life. But it can lead to problems. It also can steal our attention from important things, like our conversations – and driving. Our sleep time is being lost to nighttime gadgets and computers. And the very nature of our downtime has changed (anybody had a real “vacation” lately?), becoming invaded by the ever present and remotely accessible workplace. Yuck.
Why this is really important:
1. Brain Rescue: Lack of sleep degrades our mood. And it can interfere with our productivity, as well as harm relationships. Not to mention putting our general health at risk. The most dramatic condition that illustrates this toll is Fatal Familial Insomnia. Even though this is an inheritable degenerative brain disease (in the family of “mad cow disease”), its effects on the nervous system may hasten death.
2. Brain Repair: We rejuvenate our brains while sleeping at night. At around 1:30 am, our pituitary gland releases a burst of Growth Hormone, which helps us to recover, heal our tissues, and restock our brain with the needed chemicals for thinking.
3. Brain Protection: The strained brain is more vulnerable to certain diseases. One of the most common conditions I see associated with sleeplessness and overstress is Bell’s Palsy. Another is burnout, which is now affecting more than half of physicians and many millennial corporate women.
4. Brain Optimization: Interruption and multitasking decrease our ability. Particularly when we are trying to learn something new. Set shifting may be a better way of handling multiple tasks, but ultimately both overtask the brain and can lead to fatigue.
What Do We Do?
So the idea of Cognitive Computing is indeed promising, if it liberates us to do more with less. Imagine the day when you will be able to have many of your mundane taks “outsourced” to a cognitive computer, floating in the cloud, like a cherub shooting arrows through the most boring but time-consuming time drains? It sounds heavenly.
But getting there may be a bit sticky. Expect that along the way, we may find ourselves even more sucked in and consumed by technology, before it has a chance to become so seamless and transparent that we are unaware of its presence. In that transition, be mindful of your emotions, your engagement, your connectivity to other humans (flesh and blood ones). Realize that distractedness may be a response to negative emotions, a drive to escape sadness.
So maybe it’s time to talk to a Neurologist if you are starting to suffer any of the common symptoms associated with the strained brain:
- Memory loss
- Neck pain
- Depression and anxiety
It is likely that the next half-decade will bear fruit that we hardly can anticipate now – even you have a keen grasp on exponential and logistical systems. And the impact on the human nervous system is hard to predict. What is certain is that being mindful of your usage of technology will be critical to your success in avoiding the undesirable neurological effects of a drained brain.