Multi-tasking is task-switching

16 bit parallel processing nano brain made by 17 Duroquinone molecule. The dotted lines represent hydrogen bonds. By Matengelec (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

16 bit parallel processing nano brain made by 17 Duroquinone molecule. The dotted lines represent hydrogen bonds. By Matengelec (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Today, rocking through the daily to-do list, I felt like was multitasking like a maniac, getting things done. Despite the happy flow, I had to remind myself that when it comes to attention, true multitasking is impossible.

Yes, it’s true. Neuroscientists have known for years that the executive function controlling the brain’s attention functions like a switchboard, not a parallel processor.

So when I’m talking on the phone, checking email, wiping down my keyboard, outlining an essay, and peeking at the construction out the window, I’m toggling between tasks really, really swiftly.

Don’t believe me? Try this simple test from Psychology Today.

Even if humans eventually build a molecular nano brain, which theoretically functions according to the laws of quantum mechanics, it’s likely that the resulting nano bots will ultimately perform like people — achieving complex tasks one step at a time.

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