Can humans multi-task? Attention Getting Scarcer, According to Analysts: "According to McClellan, 'Consumers will continue to embrace multiple new devices and efficient ways to use them to accomplish more. But multi-tasking has invisible limits; in fact, people don't actually multi-task - they "packet-switch" from one task to another dividing attention in smaller and smaller increments.'" Interesting metaphor. I'm interested in the topic of human multi-tasking. Last time I mentioned it, I got an excellent email from a reader who wished to not have his identity revealed, but did give me permission to publish what he wrote:

I read the above and your cluetrain link [quote] and would like to dispute your position against human multi-tasking.

You have gathered by my email address that I am on officer in the us navy. Aboard my first ship, and Aegis Cruiser, I stood watch as the Air Wafare Coordinator. I
had a screen with a polar coordinate system and information boxes surrounding it. Above that main screen was a smaller informational screen. To my left was an IFF (ID friend or foe) control box. Above that box was a regular montior fed by a CPU networked to a separate system. I interfaced through 2 different keyboards, 3
different button boards, a trackball, and foot pedal, and a finger trigger. I switched between 2 internal radio circuits in one of my ears and at least 2 external
through the other ear, while listening to another external radio circuit through an amplified speaker above me. I was in charge of at least 10 other crew members who controlled aircraft, ran multiple radar systems, ran the weapon control system, ran the missile system, ran the linked/network communication system, and ran the identification system. Meanwhile I tracked multiple air contacts, coordinated air intercepts, fired missiles, tailored automatic doctrine statements (equivalent to
automatic scripts that reacted to multiple variables), provided overall identification of unknowns, issued warnings and queries, etc, etc etc.

I know I am going overboard explaining... but you can multi-task... maybe not watch several things at once, but you can comprehend and understand multiple inputs through different senses, and I further believe, that by shifting attention between three visual mediums at a rapid rate, your mind can smooth or fill in the gaps -- thereby simulating true multi-tasking.

Take card counting for instance. There are crutches to help you retain huge amounts of information. Here is a little trick to count cards. For one suit, say clubs,
visualize the cards in your head as you see them. For spades, say the card in your head. For hearts use your finger and hand placements in coordination to track cards. I guarantee you can remember more by splitting up the memory across different functional centers of your brain.

Hmmm...interesting points. I guess I need to clarify — if not re-think — my position on human multi-tasking. But first: What do you think, can humans multi-task (discussion thread)?