Researchers at the University of London Institute of Psychiatry have found that the interruptions brought on by instant messaging, cell phones, and e-mail can actually make you--technical term coming up--stupid. The constant task-switching will (temporarily) impair your intelligence to the tune of 10 IQ points.
As our "connectedness" to friends and colleagues improves, the IQ problem is only going to get worse. Where will it end? I think the answer comes from the "hoot & holler" boxes used by traders (audio links between trading floors that are kept constantly open); from the Accenture Technology Labs' "virtual corridor," a large, always-on video pipe that connects the common areas of our North American locations; and from IM applications that let you maintain live video windows with your "buddies" even when you’re not chatting.
These are the first steps on a path that will lead to what I call the Big Party: a time when all of our friends and colleagues are constantly with us in some fashion--maybe high-bandwidth, maybe low, maybe video, maybe audio, maybe only text--but always on the periphery of our consciousness and instantly, casually, trivially accessible. You'll be surrounded by a great chattering cloud, and you'll be courting pariah-hood and professional failure if you don't participate. Of course, if the University of London Institute of Psychiatry is right, you'll be courting moron-hood if you do. Decisions, decisions.