October 30, 2014

Slowing Down


Recently I had a very short debate with an old friend. We used to debate economics and politics in high school, despite being at different schools. Most of these debates took place on the walk from my place to the nearest TimeZone (an 80’s gaming arcade). The chats were always friendly, but we rarely agreed. Over 20 years later we met up again, and our views have shifted somewhat, but we still don’t agree. He emailed me a long treatise from the web about his point of view. I sent back a critique. I thought, even hoped, that might be the end of it as I lacked time to continue a long debate. I needn’t have worried his reply was a statement of disagreement and some valid points. I replied agreeing we disagreed on the basic axiomatic points of the argument and largely left it at that.

Someone is wrong

If a longer reply arrived attempting initiate a full debate I had planned a slightly different response, basically apologising but refusing to engage. Not because the debate would be uninteresting. Quite the opposite – this friend’s viewpoint is quite dissimilar from mine and not something I come across normally. Not because the argument would become uncivil. Our conversations never got heated before, I don’t see why they would this time. It is because I don’t have the mental energy for a proper discussion.

I don’t think I’m as mentally fast as I used to be. Or perhaps I’m more realistic about my learning abilities. Previously I seemed able to pick up new skills, technology or understand systems in a matter of days without effort and while doing several other things at the same time. Or at least I believed I could, maybe I was just arrogant. Now, if attempted under similar conditions, mastering something new takes a little longer and requires more attention.

However, I do not think my productivity has slipped (yet). As my natural mental speed slowed it has been compensated by an increase in experience and focus. I have seen studies suggesting one’s mental faculties are at their peak in the early 20’s and it is all downhill from there. My peak productivity was in my early 30’s, and it hasn’t declined much since then. The difference is that I’m aware of having to concentrate on the task at hand more intensely and that my memory of previous similar work situations helps me avoid wrong paths. Or, perhaps I’m still arrogant.

Right now, Concealed Intent is taking up nearly all of my thoughts. I need all the focus and concentration (and experience) I can muster to complete it in a reasonable timeframe. Just the initial reply to my friend’s website took over a work day. Time I can’t afford at the moment – I’m not able to easily split my attention. So I won’t. Debates will have to wait.

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