The cell-phone was the start of the slide. Now with the ubiquitous iPhone and Blackberry, it’s become worse.
Unless they have multiple processors, computers that do multi-tasking, do each task at a proportionately reduced speed. But, at least usually, each task is done properly. With humans, because they believe that they are able to multi-task, it’s not only the speed that’s affected, it’s the quality of the output.
In meetings and conversations, people devote half (or less) of their attention, and with that comprehension disappears. So they agree to things they would not otherwise have done, and mistakes happen.
The e-mail responses one receives from people who write them while also otherwise engaged often reflect the same inattention. They reveal that the respondent, instead of reading the original missive, has often jumped to a conclusion of what they think the content is, and send a reply that is way off track.
Now as social media has entered the fray, attention has become a rare commodity, and otherwise intelligent people start to look more than a little stupid.
At least the phones are smart!