Each year, Edge.org asks some of the brightest minds in science and technology to consider one question and respond in essay form. The question for 2006 is:

What is your dangerous idea?

Leo Chalupa, Ophthalmologist and neurobiologist at the University of California, Davis chose a 24-hour period of absolute solitude:

“Our brains are constantly subjected to the demands of multi-tasking and a seemingly endless cacophony of information from diverse sources. Cell phones, emails, computers, and cable television are omnipresent, not to mention such archaic venues as books, newspapers and magazines.

This induces an unrelenting barrage of neuronal activity that in turn produces long-lasting structural modification in virtually all compartments of the nervous system.

My dangerous idea is that what’s needed to attain optimal brain performance is a 24-hour period of absolute solitude. By absolute solitude I mean no verbal interactions of any kind (written or spoken, live or recorded) with another human being. The only activity not proscribed is thinking.

Imagine if everyone in this country had the opportunity to do nothing but engage in uninterrupted thought for one full day a year!”

In August last year in my old blog, I wrote something which echoes this:

I’m still pondering the topic of interruptions in our day. I’m finding that the more and more I work on computers, the more difficult is it to really get to a deeper level of thinking and it’s a struggle to turn off all the potential sources of interruptions while working on something. I know I’ve posted about this before and I don’t really have anything new to add, it’s just something I wrestle with. Everyone asking me a question, emailing me wanting help or a reply, an inbox that fills up quite rapidly, txt messages which stream in and I’m not that excited to get them.

There’s a desire in me to simplify, slow down and get to a deeper level of reflection and thinking.

Do you struggle with this desire and the reality of a day of interruptions too?

With all this focus on connectedness and community, have we forgotten the importance of balancing this with aloneness and silence?

Were we meant to multitask?

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