Multitasking is overrated


I’m often intrigued by people complaining about the lack of multi-tasking on devices like the iPhone and new iPad. Frequently these rants include more than one mis-spelled word. Since the rants were almost always written on devices that – at the very least – permit the author to check the spelling of his work while working on a document, it suggests to me that these believers in the value of doing two things at once aren’t actually that good at doing one.

We’ve become a society of multi-taskers. New laws in European countries and many US states are aimed at restricting, and in some cases outright banning, of the use of text-messaging devices while driving. (As an aside, I notice an exemption from most such US regs. for law enforcement officers. Is this really necessary?)

From the standpoint of the Apple devices (iPhone, iPad) the complaints are not strictly true. You can do two things at once: You can listen to iTunes music (or podcasts, audiobooks, etc.) while using most other applications – although obviously, applications that make extensive use of sound are probably not a good idea.

Doesn’t this limited-multitaking model actually mimic what works best in the real world? I think most people can safely drive a car (in most circumstances) while listening to the car’s stero. Its when we try and perform other, more mentally demanding, tasks while driving that we run into trouble.

One complaint I read came a day after the annual State of the Union speech. The commenter complained that with the Apple devices, he would be unable to upload to his Twitter account while simultaneously watching  feeds on his iPad/iPhone. Its going to take an awful lot to convince me that this is a bad thing.

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