It's not rewiring for the information age, it's just that the information age is so much... fun. Well, a certain kind of fun. It does feel like a waste of time if you spend all day at it, whereas a good book never feels like a waste of time.
"...the biggest surprise, and the one most relevant to current debates, is a “revolutionary” experiment Linden discusses near the end of his book. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health gave thirsty monkeys the option of looking at either of two visual symbols. No matter which they moved their eyes to, a few seconds later the monkeys would receive a random amount of water. But looking at one of the symbols caused the animals to receive an extra cue that indicated how big the reward would be. The monkeys learned to prefer that symbol, which differed from the other only by providing a tiny amount of information they did not already have. And the same dopamine neurons that initially fired only in anticipation of water quickly learned to fire as soon as the information-providing symbol became visible. “The monkeys (and presumably humans as well) are getting a pleasure buzz from the information itself,” Linden writes.
"If this discovery proves reliable, it implies that the Internet doesn’t change our brains at all, for good or for ill. It doesn’t damage brain areas, destroy links between parts of our brains, or grow new areas or connections. What the Internet does is stimulate our reward systems over and over with tiny bursts of information (tweets, status updates, e-mails) that act like primary rewards but can be delivered in more varied and less predictable sequences. These are experiences our brains did not evolve to prefer, but like drugs of abuse, they happen to be even better suited than the primary reinforcers to activating the reward system. So if you find yourself stopping every 30 seconds to check your Twitter feed, your brain has no more been rewired than if you find yourself taking a break for ice cream rather than celery. Picking the more rewarding stimulus is something our brains can do perfectly well with the wiring they start out with."
NY Times review of THE COMPASS OF PLEASURE
How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good
By David J. Linden
"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield