Updated from a Future of Work Blog post dated 8/3/2006
The Economist reported a few years ago that sleep deprivation is a very poor way to form memories (The Big Sleep). I find it interesting how we continue to do things that self-reinforce the negatives of our technology. Because we can be connected to the Net all the time, from phone to tablet to game console, we are starting to mimic its behavior, rather than controlling our interaction to provide us with personal value. Controlling time seems important, as in the study reported in the (Enhancing learning and retarding forgetting: Choices and consequences, Harold Pashler, Doug Rohrer, et al, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, vol 14, p 187) that if you sleep just after learning something new, you will remember it better. Time about when to reinforce study also appears important.
The onslaught of information forces us to be more savvy about how we process that information. The people with strong pattern recognition skills succeed, yet we stay up later and get up earlier. We don’t time shift, we just shut off time. And that is simply not good for us. We are addicted to doing things, staying connected. Why? Because sub or consciously realize the biggest challenge of our time: we know we can know what we don’t know.
During the knowledge management boom many articles, and at least one book lead with If Only We Knew What We Know. What that meant was there was more to know, and we knew it. Not sure what it was, but we knew it was out there. So we went in search. We created new constructs, like communities of practice to give people a place to share. And we gave them technology to share it with. We just didn’t give them more time to share, because no matter how we counted, we could not extend the day. The military is trying to do that by keeping people awake and functional for longer periods (See New Scientist, Harnessing science to create the ultimate warrior, 20 May, 2009). It seems we are trying to do the same thing, just using weaker drugs, like caffeine, to help us. And in the end, we loose our ability to use our brains in a way that will make us succeed in the world we are trying to stay connected to.
Writing regularly, be it blog or Facebook post, still challenges many. For me it is like the old days when I used to run home from work to do my other job, which was writing software reviews for trade magazines. That’s how it started for me. The end of the end of time. Time is fluid. Then I started traveling to Europe and Asia time became meaningless, because as the adage goes, it IS always happy hour some place.
This world demands brains that can discern subtle patterns. We can’t do that if we are sleep walking through our lives and our work.
Perhaps it is because I read J. G. Ballard’s Crash: A Novel that this Economist piece was so meaningful. At least I haven’t lost it so much that I can’t connect Crash to Italian sleep research. Or maybe it is just a blur that doesn’t connect. You decide.
I’m going to bed now. Go get some sleep. Make up your own day, but find a way to let your brain rest. You’re going to need it.
Photo Credit: Daniel W. Rasmus. Picture of Alyssa Sleeping.
Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.