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Is Mild ADHD a Favorable Evolutionary Adaptation to Technology?

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Note: This is a cross-post with a post I put up earlier today on my blog over at technology news and opinion site ZDNet.

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

Still, something he said during an executive session at the VoiceCon conference in San Francisco 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.

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