PHONICS TALK: The Dorbooks Newsletter
Volume 78 ~ May 2016
by Dolores G. Hiskes

PHONICS TALK: The Dorbooks Newsletter
Volume 78 ~ May 2016
by Dolores G. Hiskes


We live in turbulent times, and it sometimes seems as though we

even have difficulty communicating with one another even with

slightly differing opinions. What’s going on?

Even more than what we think, how we think matters. In *The

Mistrust of Science* Autul Gawande feels the stakes for under-

standing this could not be higher than they are today, because

we are not just battling for what it means to be scientists. We are

battling for what it means to be citizens.




Compounding this is the personalization of the internet. Since

December 2009 when two people google the same term they will

often be served very different results, with news and information

conforming to what Google’s algorithm suggests is best for each

one of us, and conforms to our particular beliefs. Someone else

may see something entirely different. In other words, there is no

standard Google anymore.

We are increasingly unaware of what is being filtered out and why,

leaving us each more and more in our own unique, self-serving

bubble. For example, according to one study the top fifty Internet

sites install an average of 64 data-laden cookies and personal

tracking beacons each. Search for a word like ‘depression’ and

information is automatically collected and stored so that other

Web sites can target you with antidepressants.

Democracy requires citizens to see things from one another’s

point of view. Instead we’re more and more enclosed in our own

private bubbles. Democracy requires a reliance on shared facts,

instead we’re being offered parallel but separate universes.

The old joke showing a dog online with the caption *Nobody knows

I’m a dog* no longer holds true. Today the Internet not only

knows you’re a dog; it knows your breed and wants to sell you

a bowl of premium kibble! (From *The Filter Bubble* by Eli Pariser.)




Further complicating things is ‘information overload.’ Today we

are confronted with an unprecedented amount of information,

and each of us generates more information than ever before

in human history. Information scientists estimates that in 2011

Americans took in five times as much information every day as

they did in 1986 — the equivalent of 175 newspapers!

Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or

text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources

in your brain with important things like where you left your

keys or checkbook. It’s as though our brains are configured to

make a certain number of decisions per day and once we reach

that limit, we can’t seem to make any more no matter how

important they are. A kind of neural fatigue sets in, resulting in

‘decision overload.’ (From *The Organized Mind* by Daniel Levitin.)




Many, many years ago Noah Webster, creator of the first American

Dictionary first stated:

*There is one remarkable circumstance in our own history which

seems to have escaped observation — the damaging effect of

the mistaken application of terms. Popular errors preceding from a

misunderstanding of words are among the primary cause of our

political disorders. We have enough *political disorder* right now —

don’t compound it by not understanding the words you read!*

In a recent newsletter I quoted from a November 1959 article from

The Atlantic Monthly, called *Solomon or Salami?* It detailed how

12th-grade students misread *delinquency* for *delicious* and

*implicitly* for *imbecility.*

Is there nothing new under the sun?

Here’s another example: *philogyny* and *phylogeny* are pronounced

the same, but one is spelled with a Y and one with an E. They have

different meanings: *Phylogeny* means the development of an

evolutionary history of a particular species through genes. But

*Philogyny* means a fondness for women. One can only imagine

the difficulties that might arise from confusing the two!




The idea that conscious processes need to be done one at a time

has been studied in hundreds of experiments since the 1980s.

Scientist Harold Pashler showed that when people do two cognitive

tasks at once their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard

MBA to that of an 8-year-old. It’s a phenomenon called *dual-task

interference.* The problem isn’t doing two things at once so much

as doing two conscious mental tasks at once, unless you are ok

with a significant drop in performance.

When our focus is split continuously the effect is constant and

intense mental exhaustion. A study done at the University of London

found that constant emailing and text-messaging reduces mental

capability by an average of ten points on an IQ test — five points

for women and fifteen for men.

This always on, anywhere, anytime, anyplace era has created an

artificial sense of constant crisis, and our adrenalized fight-or-flight

mechanism kicks in. It’s great when tigers are chasing us, but how

many of those five hundred emails a day is a tiger?

(From *Your Brain at Work*, by David Rock)




And now, added to all of this filtered information, misinformation,

misunderstanding, and information overload, we will soon have

two major, presidential political conventions added to the mix.

Is it any wonder that we are nervous and feel uncertain and turbulent

times all around us?

May we have the strength to change the things we can, the courage

to bear what we cannot change, and the wisdom to know the


*I do reveal the way that I feel

by the things that I say or do.

By changing the things that I say or do,

I can change the way that I feel!*

Warmly, Dolores

Copyright Dolores G. Hiskes 2016
May be reprinted in entirety with reference to author




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