The Game Show problem, logical fallacies, Marilyn's daily diet, multi-tasking and achieving your potential.

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Postby Marilyn » Sat Jun 24, 2006 8:42 am

Does multi-tasking help you deal with all the distractions in life? Or does just hearing the word "multi-tasking" drive you to distraction? If the latter is the case, you have plenty of company.

I think the term multi-tasking is a euphemism--a way to put a positive spin on learning to tolerate a work-style of constant interruption. No one would choose to be jerked randomly off task again and again until you have half a dozen things you're trying to get done, all at the same time.

The email, instant messaging, and cell phones we all love have caused this problem. They give us fabulous communication ability, but because we live and work in our own little worlds, that communication is totally disorganized.

Working in an office with an array of electronic devices is like trying to get something done at home with half a dozen small children around. The calls for attention are constant.

Plus, multi-tasking is tempting due to so many brief download times and other computer-related pauses and slowdowns. In addition, many people feel they must multi-task because everybody else is multitasking, but this is partly because they are all interrupting each other so much!

Yet I am multi-tasking as I write for no good reason at all. I am printing an order I placed online, glancing at my email now and then, backing up some files, and I just hung up the phone. Oh, and did I mention my two computers and three monitors?

So, is multi-tasking a good thing or a bad thing?

That depends on whether you're referring to people or to their work. A person who learns to juggle six balls will be more skilled than the person who never tries to juggle more than three.

And the chess player who develops the ability to play two dozen boards at a time will benefit from learning to compress his or her analysis into less time, even if he or she doesn't play each of those simultaneous exhibition games in top form.

Experts say you can't concentrate on more than one task at a time--that "multi-tasking" is actually a rapid toggling back and forth between tasks. This is the reason jurors are not allowed to take notes in the courtroom and why it may not be wise for students to take notes during class. While you're writing, you can't concentrate nearly as well on what the speaker is saying.

However, I believe that one can indeed work on two or more tasks at once, but in ways yet to be understood. For example, we've all had the experience of trying to remember a fact and failing, only to have the fact pop into our consciousness hours or days later when we're absorbed in a totally unrelated activity.

It's clear we were continuing to work on locating that fact, even though we were unaware of the mental activity. There was no toggling back and forth: the task was running in the background.

And people who work crossword puzzles know that if they stop making progress, they should put the puzzle down for a while. After time passes, they may pick up the puzzle and find the missing answers obvious.

What to Do?

Multi-tasking is not a skill to be dismissed or avoided or feared. It is the people who can do many things at once who are the most valuable in a chaotic situation, especially when time is important or much is at stake.
Another point: Do you find it difficult to concentrate, especially in a quiet environment? Or do you take frequent breaks for coffee or tea or a snack? Multi-tasking may work for you especially well. After all, multi-tasking arises out of distraction itself.

That said, I would not encourage children or teens to multi-task because we don't know where those efforts may lead. Attention-deficit disorders seem to abound in modern society, and we don't know the cause.

Yet I would not discourage multi-tasking that seems to occur naturally, meaning at the young person's own initiative and when he or she is in control of his or her situation. Society needs people who can manage projects in addition to handling individual tasks.

Keep in mind that you can multi-task more easily when using one sense than when using more than one sense. Have you ever noticed that when you must struggle to hear something, you close your eyes? That's why: You're turning off a competing sense.

For example, say you can comfortably watch six children in a swimming pool. You will be much less comfortable watching only four of them if two are standing nearby and talking to you.

Regardless, multitasking often is stressful. Consider how annoying it is to talk on the telephone while someone else in the room is trying to tell you something. But turn on the speakerphone, and the problem disappears. Why? You've stopped multi-tasking. Unlike children clamoring for your attention, the speakers will try to cooperate.

The difference between talking on your cell phone while driving and speaking with a passenger is huge. The passenger is aware of your driving environment and tailors his or her conversation accordingly. The person on the other end of the cell phone is chattering away, oblivious.

To sum up:

Don't multitask while you're studying. Teens think listening to music helps them concentrate. It doesn't. It relieves them of the boredom that concentration on homework induces. Not that this boredom is minor. The boredom can be so intense that homework seems intolerable otherwise. If this is a serious problem, change your environment. So far, coffee houses don't seem to mind!

Do multitask when the task focuses are closely related. Speaking of coffee houses, try watching the baristas. They are more than efficient: The best ones look like they're enjoying their feats.

Do play more than one game at a time. This is a painless way to learn how to do many things at once. Just don't play with a person to whom you'd hate to lose. Unless she's multi-tasking, too!

And be sure to multi-task when you absolutely love it!
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Postby W.J.Sidis v J.S.Mill » Sat Jun 24, 2006 2:47 pm

Are men or women better at multi-tasking ?
W.J.Sidis v J.S.Mill

Postby Vosh » Sat Jun 24, 2006 3:00 pm

Can baristas make ice cream cones, too? I like ice cream.
"A new scientific idea does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." -Max Planck
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Postby Shade » Sat Jun 24, 2006 8:30 pm

I heard on the news once that mult-tasking can reduce your IQ by up to 5 points. Be careful Marilyn
Bill Gates, Richest person in the world, George W. Bush, most powerful person in the world, Marilyn vos Savant smartest person in the world.
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Postby kyle » Wed Jun 28, 2006 10:30 am

I listen to music when I study, even though I know it's a horrible habit. But I find it enjoyable. As I'm drawn deeper into my subject I find that I am not even aware of the music at a conscious level. However, much learning is a a subconscious level. So, I suspect I could learn more effectively if I could break this habit.

I'm also interested in how we can harness our subconsiouses. I know for a fact that as a mathematician that much deep thinking takes place not at the level of our conscious minds. I'm reminded of the quote, "I think unto the matter until the light dawns." I think that's Newton?
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Postby runlikell » Mon Jul 03, 2006 12:11 am

I have found that listening to instrumental music is much less distracting than music with lyrics.
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Postby hippypink » Wed Jul 19, 2006 9:33 pm

this is how many people imagined the probabilities:
1. contestant picks door #1 (1/3 prob.)
2. host opens #3 UNKNOWINGLY (got lucky and opened the goat door)
3. each remaining door contains 1/2 chance)

here's the reality
1. contestant picks a door #1 (1/3 prob.)
2. host opens goat door KNOWINGLY
3. since door #2 and #3 each had a 1/3 chance, and the host removed one, you add those 2 doors to get the new probability of 2/3

Its the KNOWINGLY that changes the probabilties because the host is choosing, this IS NOT left to chance. That is why the probability of the remaining doors are added, because the removal of the doors is not random.

Here is the formula to calculate the probability for each remaining door, even if your gameshow had 100 doors:

(Original door chosen) / (Total doors)
X (Total doors - Original door chosen)
/ (Total doors still closed - Original door chosen)

I explain it in detail:

(Original door chosen) / (Total doors)
[this is the probability of a single door]

X (Total doors - Original door chosen)
[this is the probability of remaining doors]

/ (Total doors still closed - Original door chosen)
[this divides probabilty amongst remaining doors]

I dont have a proof yet, but I pretty much failed in math, so feel free to add to this.
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me too

Postby hippypink » Wed Jul 19, 2006 9:41 pm

runlikell wrote:I have found that listening to instrumental music is much less distracting than music with lyrics.

and ONLY when I am working on projects that require high concentration, or is regarding writing/reading. Others around me do not have the same experience. But my conclusion is that when there are words, the words get into my head, and get jumbled with the other words that I am trying to read/write. Maybe I pay too much attention to lyrics. The problem occurs with tv too, except if the station is in Spanish, then I notice it a bit less.
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multi tasking sometimes beneficial

Postby hippypink » Wed Jul 19, 2006 10:01 pm

I have 40 windows open on my computer on average at work. so many people call in to ask me to work on a project and I can often start them, but the program, or the information I need is randomly available throughout the day. but my computer slows down. i find my computer is the one that cant multitask, so I now have 2 computers at work, going on 3.
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Is multi-tasking our choice?

Postby opencoy » Fri Nov 10, 2006 4:30 am

I believe that multi-task is a habit that we create. At certain time, even seconds, we may only do only one thing. Having the hype of doing so many things can in many cases be of less use than help. We are human that live by making decisions. Why not to decide what to do in a certain moment? It is only one choice!
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Postby sue » Sat Nov 11, 2006 9:27 pm

I do not choose to multi-task while at work, however it happens daily. While trying to post information on the computer there is a constant stream of other employees into the office with 'urgent'questions requiring immediate answers, then there are the near constant phone calls which interrupt the parade. That doesn't even take into account the emails or interoffice mail. I generally have 5-6 windows open on the computer as I am switching frequently. Frustrating? yes, but I have learned that it will never be any different in that position.
Mothers have been masters at multi-tasking since time began.
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Postby opencoy » Sun Nov 12, 2006 2:28 am

Is this considered multi-task? May be this is more like doing certain thing while not following certain sequential steps. In some places, people have job description that they participate in its writing that describes what they will do as part of their job.

My view is that we can not come even close to mothers with respect to the responsibilities they under-take “willingly”. Mothers are acknowledged globally for what they do and the sacrifices they make. There is a complete universal infrastructure that supports them. Remember, mothers deal with children while we deal with adults with no responsibility to raise them.

Do we multi-task because of not practicing time management?

A type-A personality is one that tends to do more than one thing at the same time. I myself is type-A! Please follow this link:

Statisticians like me are aware of the fact that performance is down-graded when server tends to multi-task. We can spend less time in average per task if we work sequentially rather than round-robin.

Do we multi-task because we feel boredom before the job is finished?
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Postby kelly » Thu Jun 07, 2007 2:13 pm

We multitask as a matter of efficiency. There are multiple goals, there are joys other than achieving goals. It isn't just a matter of making gains, but also of keeping those gains from being taken away.
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How I Learned to Follow Multiple Conversations

Postby raydpratt » Thu Nov 08, 2007 5:16 pm

Ms. Savant's conclusions regarding multi-tasking are derived from her own experiences or observations, and I read those examples with immediate interest regarding her mind and how it works.

Ms. Savant seems deceptively normal given her outrageously high I.Q. One could easily misjudge her if meeting her randomly (but that may be true of anyone). I suspect that she has not discussed any examples of her multi-tasking that would be beyond the average ken.

Let me give an example that was at least beyond me.

When I was in my early twenties, I got a job as a Market Quotation Terminal Operator on the Options Trading Floor of the Pacific Stock Exchange. It was a flunky job that required me to stand within a crowd of options traders and input the highest bids and the lowest offers being yelled by any and all the traders regarding any and all the stock options being traded at my post (Lockheed options were the main options, but not the only options).

For the first few months, I was so error-prone and stressed that it is a miracle that I did not get fired. I even started chanting "Nam Myoho Ringe Kyo" while standing at my post to try and get help from the universe -- which earned me comic looks from traders (I'm a Christian, now, thank you).

Finally, it clicked, and amidst all the bids and offers on all the stock options, I could simultaneously hear and understand every one of them and choose the highest bids and the lowest offers on any and all of the stock options simultaneously.

That skill became the skill of simultaneously listening to and understanding completely different conversations at the same time while standing in the trading pit.

When the DOW first broke 1,000, after defense stocks went nuts after Reagan's election, my Lockheed post was so busy that no other MQTO could accurately keep track of the highest bids and offers, and I had to do the job by myself with no breaks for the remainder of the day.

What a difference!

I have since lost that skill, presumably from disuse and the lack of necessity, but the point is that any such multi-tasking skill can be learned no matter how unsuited for the task the learner may seem to be.

Very Respectfully,
Ray Donald Pratt
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