Today scientists have told us that the universe will endure forever, becoming “a cold, dead wasteland with a temperature approaching absolute zero”. Leaving aside the obvious jokes between the similarity of that fate and the environment of the average NHS meeting, I was struck by the contrast between this infinite expanse of time, and the increasing amount of multi-tasking we now each perform in an effort to squeeze more activity into every moment.
We spend half our waking lives accessing media, and because of multi-tasking we manage to squeeze 9 hours worth of entertainment access into a mere 7 hours of time. A big part of this ability to multi-task is down to the rise in mobile internet access via smartphones.
I’ve certainly noticed how intertwined my life has become with my phone, and not just in terms of internet access. Even small things like the ringtone can have an effect. Up until my recently leaving full-time work, I used one particular ringtone for many years. Unlike other doctors, psychiatrists here don’t carry bleeps/pagers even within hospital and in any case many do a lot of work out in the community, so most of the time we’re contacted on our mobile phones. Like Pavlov’s dogs, or rats in a Skinner box, I underwent a conditioning process by which I automatically associated that ringtone with the day-to-day hassle of work.
One of the first things I did on leaving was to promptly change my ringtone, to eliminate that automatic negative thought of “Oh bother, what now?”. Instead, now when the phone goes off to the strains of the Magnum PI theme, I have a much more enjoyable “Ooh, who’s calling?” feeling (still waiting for a Ferrari 308 GTS though). It’s surprised me just what a difference that change has made to my core attitude to my phone.
As in the contrasting news stories, the potential for the infinite can sometimes run up against the aggressive intensity of the mundane.