Saturday, April 10, 2021

Multitasking: Human vs Machine

Here on earth, humans are the only species (as far as we know) that has attempted to study its own brain. Much of our brain has remained a mystery for the majority of our existence, but relatively recently we've begun to understand some things that seem unintuitive. 

For decades we pushed ourselves to get more and more done, often resorting to multitasking, which seems on the surface like a great way to get more done - do more than one thing at a time!

Turns out, our brains don't work that way. By attempting to do more than one thing, our ability to do either of them diminishes, and ultimately both tasks take much longer and are not done as well. 

So, multitasking does not get things done faster. By and large, we've come to accept this shortcoming as a species (though there are still many who will try to defy what nature has shown us). 

There is something out there, though, that is great at multitasking. A machine, which by definition is a mechanical apparatus designed to accomplish a specific task, can do one task really well. Put two machines next to each other, and now we've got some magic. Take a look in your kitchen, with the fridge next to the stove, simultaneously keeping most food cold while making some food hot. 

Now, we as humans may not be able to do multiple things at once, but by strategically assigning machines to automate certain tasks, we can in fact accomplish many things. 

If you've read my blog before you know that I am a game developer, so I will give a game dev example here. There are some steps of game development that are inherently time-consuming, but you don't need to be particularly attentive for. Take baking lighting, for example. I recently needed to test some light baking settings, and I could see as soon as I started it that it would take a while, and I would need to check on it periodically because I wanted to test more than one setting. 

So, I started the light baking, got up from my computer, went to the kitchen. I pre-headed the oven, assembled some ingredients for a casserole, and set a timer. Then I returned to my computer to check the results and launch a second test. 

By leveraging the power of machines, I managed to bake lighting while baking a casserole, accomplishing two tasks at once.