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PhotoWe now know that texting and driving do not go well together, but why?

It’s not simply because those two tasks don’t go together the same as, say, a black suit and brown shoes. No, it’s because both activities require cognitive thought, and most of us are incapable of having two cognitive thoughts simultaneously, because one tends to interrupt the flow of the other, and interrupting the flow of anything that requires flow…water, electricity, rockslides… is a bad thing.

It’s not just texting and driving. Talking on the phone and driving also escapes us, particularly when the conversation requires that we be alert and ready to analyze and process what is being said (like a meeting). Yes, people do seem able to perform both simultaneously, but in reality, the brain is doing its best to handle the two flows by interrupting and switching back and forth between them.

In computing, that is a known issue. On a single thread, if a process of higher priority doesn’t yield any cycles until it has completed its work, the other processes wait. When we talk on the phone while driving, we drive by rote. Should a situation arise that we cannot handle by rote, such as another vehicle swerving into our lane, the conversation ceases. (The problem, of course, is that one person’s rote is another person’s fender.)

It’s also a known problem in the new age of “open floor plans.”

Really? For coding? Developers require focus, and achieving it in an open floor plan typically means headphones. I don’t know what will happen when someone discovers that white lab rats get brain cancer from white noise.

The computing issue was greatly improved by the introduction of multi-threaded operations. Humans, too, have multi-threads (breathing, heartbeat, blinking, e.g.) but only one cognitive thread. So, any activity that requires analytical thought is likely to interrupt the flow of another.

Right now you’re thinking of exceptions. Here’s a few:


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