Is mild ADHD a FAVORABLE evolutionary adaptation to our tech-centric world?

Is mild ADHD a FAVORABLE evolutionary adaptation to our tech-centric world?

Summary: So far as I know, Phil Edholm, CTO & VP Network Architecture, Enterprise at Nortel is not professionally trained in the behavioral sciences.Still, something he said during an Executive Session at VoiceCon last week has been haunting me for its innovativeness and plausibility.

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TOPICS: Networking
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So far as I know, Phil Edholm, CTO & VP Network Architecture, Enterprise at Nortel is not professionally trained in the behavioral sciences.

Still, something he said during an Executive Session at VoiceCon last week has been haunting me for its innovativeness and plausibility.

Without furnishing attribution, he meme-d the notion that the increase in ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) among the "Millennium Generation" of younger people could actually be the start of an "evolutionary adaptation" to the increasingly fast-paced world of digital technology.

I think what he was trying to get at, is that video games, texting, and other online applications are best performed by minds with the circuitry to jump at a nanosecond's notice back and forth from screen to screen and application to application.

Following this proposition forward, the seeming inability of some younger folks to concentrate on just one thing, one thought, one application, could be attributed to a rewiring of neurons to keep up with the herky-jerky pace of life. I don't know how the ability of so many young people to shut themselves up in a room for hours with a Harry Potter book plays into this hypothesis, but I could see how minds now wired for fast reaction could adapt well to our changing tech.

While others seem to second this notion that mild ADHD could actually be an evolving attribute favorable to the increasingly hyperactive nature of technology platforms and tools, the perspective this is a good phenomenon is far from unanimous.

In the summer, 2007 issue of AlwaysOn magazine, technology and branding services expert Bill Cleary quotes from "The Cult of The Amateur," a controversial book in which author Andrew Keen decries the Internet as subverting knowledge researched and published by professionals.

In his book, Cleary cites research performed Oxford University neuroscience professor Susan Greenfield as noting in part "that the ubiquity of digital technology is altering the shape and chemistry of our brains, and that violent video games and intense online interactivity can generate mental disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder, and hyperactivity."

I don't know enough about ADD to weigh in. But readers, I'd like it if you would.

Topic: Networking

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5 comments
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  • ADHD it isn't

    Having reared two (very bright) ADHD kids, I can tell you that it's [b]not[/b] beneficial in a technical world, nor in a fast-paced one.

    The hallmark of ADHD is [i]distractability[/i] -- which is utterly poison to learning much of anything. A "fast-paced" world not only requires that people have a lot of balls in the air, but also that [i]they keep track of them[/i]. Forgetting about them to watch a moth is [u]not[/u] an advantage.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Degrees of ADD

      You are right. Yes, we're able to jump from task to task -- but often not because
      we WANT to, but because something has caught our attention and suddenly
      *that's* what we are focussed and working on. The previous task is often
      completely forgotten. Or, the other side of the coin from this, is our
      aellath
      • Yes, exactly

        [i]Or, the other side of the coin from this, is our[/i]

        Now, I wonder what caught [i]your[/i] attention?
        Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Not ADHD, Asperger's

    ADHD is not adaptive, it's a problem. Working (as opposed to entertainment) requires an attention span longer than 30 seconds. Mild Asperger's, on the other hand, can be beneficial in an increasingly high-tech world, where ability with numbers, logic, computers and abstract concepts in general is very important for high-tech jobs, and personal interaction less so.
    hfeddema@...
  • I Have Adult ADD and Have Struggled with ADHD Throughout My Childhood

    I can pay attention for more than 30 seconds. How would I survive in the world if I couldn't?

    It can difficult for young people to learn to control how they jump from task to task, it CAN be learned. It CAN be controlled, and most things we come back around to.

    But I have to say the post by Yagotta B. Kidding is one that bothered me. It people like this that have all the good intentions in the world and in so they have no idea how damaging they can be to young people with ADD and ADHD. She loves her kids I'm sure, but needs to pull her head out of that dark spot at the bottom of her backside. ADHD isn't "poison to learning" and I hope she doesn't run off and tell her kids that. We have heavily particular learning styles, being mostly kenistetic, but studies show the average person with ADHD has a higher IQ then the average of the general public. Moreover, I am a teacher at the level of high school who works prodominantly with kids who have ADD and ADHD. So far I have managed not to wonder out of any classrooms chaising moths. I have a bachelors in anthropology that required a great deal of reading (mostly peer reviewed essays), which brings me to my main point....

    While Phil Edholm may be very intelligent, he doesn't understand how natural selection works. It doesn't favor traits which give people an advantage in technical aplication. It favors traits which allow for the most success in reproduction (duplication of the genes). This means creatures who survive long enough and have successful mating tactics so as to have many offspring are favored by natural selection. Now, if being technologically inclined got you laid then you might have something there.

    That being said, I am pretty decent with computers (especially the internet) and when I was a kid I was pretty good at video games (which was rare for girls... oh yeah I'm a woman).
    J L Bhandari