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You are NOT multi-tasking.

How to overload your brain 101

Many people say they love multi-tasking. It means they do multiple things all at once.

That is a lie.

There is no such thing as true multi-tasking. It’s not how our brain works. Unless you count breathing, holding an upright position, and blinking while you work on your computer multitasking.
Evolution has given us a powerful computer inside our heads but it can only do one focus-requiring task at any given time.

Sure — all the system processes like breathing, blinking, and holding pee in are running in the background but you literally have ONE mental window open.


What is multitasking?

If someone looks like they’re multitasking, it’s actually task-switching.
It means they quickly switch between tasks and it happens so fast it may feel like they’re doing many things at once.

But except for some differently wired unique people (trust me you’re probably not one of them), it’s actually a messy process. We lose a lot of brainpower to do that and the quality of what we do decreases.


It’s an age-old question of whether you want something to be done good or fast.

It’s never both.



Luckily small screen real-estate led to smartphones being able to only task-switch, split views, or picture-in-picture. I can’t imagine a mess like that on a smaller screen. Unless you count widget home screens as the same thing.

Smartphones save us from multi-tasking with obsessive single-tasking and doomscrolling through endless content streams. It’s a different kind of overload but still there.

Multitasking on a computer

Multi-tasking has been around for quite a long time in the computer world. Chances are you’re currently running more than one app at the same time, right? I’m running 7 as I’m writing this.


Do I need them all for this article? No. Just Sketch and Safari would’ve been enough. But we are conditioned to not really close apps and often switch between them.

We’ll get to the Vision Pro soon, but I believe it’s important to break it down with how most of us use computers so it hits better when we get into AR.
There are a couple of main use cases for apps.



Fullscreen mode — this is full immersion in one thing at a time. I often use it in Final Cut when editing a video. Another obvious choice is watching a movie.


Split screen

We sometimes do split screen if we’re using data from one app in another, or need to drag and drop something. Some also use it to watch a picture-in-picture style video next to something they’re doing but that’s unproductive and goes back to the lack of human multi-tasking.


Single app and switching

This is the most common way we work on a computer. We have one app open — not necessarily fullscreen, and when we need something else we CMD + TAB into another one — grab it, and CMD + TAB back.

This is how I work most of the time.


And then there’s the chaos.

Apple calls this Mission Control. It happens when you scroll with three fingers up on the trackpad. It shows you all currently open windows.
And as a different kind of task switcher it works perfectly.

But would you be able to actually work like this? With seeing all the open windows all across your display all the time? That’s extremely distracting. And here we arrive at the Vision Pro issue.


Vision Pro is windows everywhere

Sure, you can use it with a single window and most people probably end up using it that way, but both Apple’s ads and screenshots of what people are doing with it show that exact same kind of cognitive mess.

Sure — it kind of blurs stuff outside of what you’re looking at, but still it gives you that impression that you’re surrounded by processes, and as we already established most humans can only focus on one.

Casey Neistat said in his review, that he watched a Mr Beast video while replying to iMessages. And I know it was a way to show how the OS integrates with reality and how Windows can float in Times Square but…
It leads us back to the same rabbit hole.

Complete brain overload.

Merging worlds

Now imagine you’re on a subway train wearing the Vision Pro.

It’s actually NOT recommended by Apple to use it that way but well…here we are.

vision 2

Not only do you have a window (or multiple) windows to worry about, but also the moving crowd around you. It’s probably also good to keep track of the stations so you don’t go too far.

We’re entering immense overload category here.

Mixed reality is exciting

Don’t get me wrong. I believe the technology is exciting to some extent but it simply poses some problems.
That external stimuli overload may also be the reason Apple added that full immersion VR mode to it — to shut yourself off from the external world for better focus.

I am building some concepts for the Vision Pro and trying to figure out how far out of Apple’s interface garden I can go to still make something usable.
That’s why I’m not trying to downplay the technology — eventually, it will get lighter, smaller, and with better battery life. It may become a new iPhone or a next category device next to the iPhone.

But we need to be cautious about how we approach multi-tasking and multi-modality of the interface. Overloading our brain can overstimulate the nervous system and in the end lead to anxiety or depression.

We don’t want the future of interfaces to lead us to worse outcomes, do we?

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