Recent studies have found out that our ancient brains are not designed for constant digital interruptions. Concentration may have reached its peak and it is not surprising, given than on average a person faces distractions every 12 minutes in the workplace and at Universities it is every 3 minutes.
Dr Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist and Dr Larry Rosen, psychologist, have recently attempted to explain how our brains function in their new book, The distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World.
Amongst other findings, the have found that playing certain types of games is linked to better cognition and higher attention-span, increase memory over time. While these findings are related to digital computer games, there is a growing evidence that spending time away from the screen, can increase even further productivity and concentration. Games are designed in a way, where:
“They are designed with a primary goal of engendering high levels of immersion, engagement, and enjoyment for the players, […] They do not tend to focus on one specific cognitive skill, as exercises usually do, but rather expose players to multiple demands that challenge a broad range of abilities.”
This is the case even more with the ultimate strategic game of Go. Even children as young as 4 or 6 years old can sustain concentration of over 1 or 2 hours, for the duration of the game. One of the reasons is that the game offers a vast number of choices, and expecting your opponents/teacher move, is of crucial importance.
Go gained popularity in 2016 with the Deep Mind Challenge in what was seen as the ultimate game between humans and machines. The digital giant Google saw a challenge and a potential in the fact, that up to that date, humans were still regarded as superior players in the humble board game of black and white stones. Subsequently, Alpha Go was developed: a sophisticated Artificial Intelligence with the aim of non-humans to claim victory over humans through series of games with the Go-champions of Asia, Europe and the Americas. Lee Se Dol, a legendary Go players won one out of five games, which were streamed with live commentators.
The need of players to constantly evaluate the entire board, applying holistic thinking, setting strategic directions and goals, is crucial in the Go game.
Perhaps even more important is the need to develop a sense of serenity, from where to take better decisions. This is why Go is just as much a matter of accurate calculations, as well as a intuitive game, due to vast numbers of possible moves, which makes it the ultimate concentration, close to meditation activity to train our ancient brains to deal in the highly destructive digital era.
Gazzaley, Adam and Rosen, Larry (2016) The distracted mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World, MIT Press.