I’ve read that humans are unique in being unable to eat and breathe at the same time. Unlike other animals, the human trachea and esophagus are separated only by a thin flap of skin called the epiglottis that keeps food from getting lodged in the windpipe and choking off air. This dangerous design is apparently the result of the evolution of speech: the lower position of the larynx in some early humans allowed them to vocalize many more sounds. The possibility of complex communication was such a tremendous evolutionary advantage that it didn’t really matter when some people choked to death on dinner.
In the modern world, I have a machine in my office that crunches all sorts of numbers to create an amazing video interface I use for typing and rearranging text into what I hope are helpful instructions and convincing arguments. The machine used to be uniquely dedicated to that job, but not any more. At some point it got hooked up to a network, and something else tremendously compelling started coming through the screen: other people. Now our work screens are one and the same as our social networking screens. My text editor is open, but Twitter, Gmail, Outlook, and Last.FM are lurking in the background. Procrastination is when not enough oxygen is getting to your work because of all the information in the way.
History seems to be repeating itself. Speech was just one way of accomplishing the vital task of sharing information and the screen is the new throat. We haven’t yet evolved an electronic epiglottis, so obviously there are going to be some casualties.