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C2C Digital Magazine (Spring / Summer 2018)

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An Exploration of Millisecond Thinking

By Desiree L. DePriest, Purdue University Global 

Figure 1: "Millisecond Pulsar" (NASA)

The vast number of computer users get much of their information on the Web.  Millennials and Gen Z experience their relationships via social networks/media such as FaceTime, Skype, Twitter and Instagram, and Google suites. The more studious young people and those older users, who were raised on print media, read The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, or others like Vox, The Daily Beast, Mother Jones or Huffington Post. All online. There are myriad newsfeeds sent to us as a matter of algorithms, arithmetic or analytics – have a cookie. 

Because of all this inundation, our brains attempt to process information faster and faster. The working identification of attempting to wave through all these things is “millisecond” thinking. This occurs when trying to resolve the complexity of information overload in terms of time. Contained within this dilemma of millisecond thinking (a millionth of a second) remains the question of how much the users can retain within the short amount of time they have to be interested in what someone else is thinking. 

Online publications like Tech Target include the time-of-ur-read (ToUR?) indicating how long the article will take to read. This is a false parameter, saying an article is only three minutes long, because everyone reads at different paces. Seeing this timeframe, however, the user may find the cognitive fortitude to read, measure, and spread the information to others. Friends tend to think alike, creating a higher probability the article may go viral based on free millisecond labor.

Space and Time Complexity

In computer science, this results in measurements of such wonders as complexity. This space considers where to place the information that will attract the millisecond thinker. An example is Snapchat where the information deletes after a short period of time. It is certainly user-intensive enough, but is it the place for adverts, or is it better to link it to Facebook or Instagram? Trusting in Minkowski space-time continuum, from atom to universe, how much brain energy does it take in time complexity, using an insert code to sort information, within N or N+1… scenarios (Brookshear, 2009)? Some of us really want to know these things!

The thing about insertion, the independent +1 is temporary. 2+1 = 3, not 1. Also, 2(1) = 2, not 1. The insertion will survive only as an extension of N. Put differently, the more information is an addition/extension of what the individual already thinks, the more likely it will be reinforced and inserted into the cognitive milliseconds of the user. Then and perhaps the information will be shared with a friend.

Chunking is also used by information distributors and manufacturers. This decreases the number of items the user must remember in one-time sequence by increasing the size of each item. For example, chunking is used to break up phone numbers as well as the gaps in numbers on credit cards (Foer, 2011). In terms of memory, sufficient research is available to validate this code.

We are squinting our eyes attempting to insert more and more information within what appears to be less and less time. Where has the time gone? eSports, also known as video games, are now considered a potential addiction according to the Food and Drug Administration. They are not only taking an enormous amount of individual’s time but are now legitimized through conventions, tournaments, and unbelievably realistic computer-generated imagery (CGI). These tournaments are shown on ESPN channels which takes up even more milliseconds (Vox, 2018).

Users thinking in milliseconds and recognizing the value of information only through rote repetitions or deterministic algorithms is the result that propagandists, valid news, fake news or eSports, depend on. It creates predictive/persuasive analytics, like algorithmic-hypnotism. The online newspaper subscriptions chunk the user’s inbox with only the large title and the beginning of the first paragraph. The ambition is to catch the milliseconds the user may choose to click on the link and read the rest of the article. 

Also, the cable stations get their information from the same Associated Press or Reuters news agencies. If the article is not clicked in the email, the same information will reach the thinker through television or newsfeed on a mobile device. Friends send links to other friends hoping they will open them and trigger dialog. Else, the millisecond thinkers will gather the topic from looking at the link and respond, “Thanks!” but never read it. 

The new Gmail makes this as easy as a prefabricated response click. Simultaneously, every link clicked with a “?” in the URL, is tracking where the link was sent. If opened, all their investors are probably informed or benefited by that millisecond decision. Copy up to the question mark and the URLwill go to the same site but without that tracker. There are still several more. Analytics, cookies and user agreements cannot be forgotten but they are not the end of the story.

Deterministic vs. Non-deterministic Millisecond Thinking

Figure 2The Human Brain (Pixabay)

“Breaking News” is a deterministic algorithm that challenges millisecond thinking. It is instructing the brain to pay attention because this information is extremely important. It has also become rote repetition as that which breaks at 6 a.m. breaks again throughout the day, perhaps the week. 

It is difficult to apply non-deterministic millisecond thinking unless we consider an algorithm with an intended result of N + 1 = N, regardless. In this case, let ‘N’ represent numb to (+1) new information including sharing any information different than existing views. It is not unusual in current times to experience individuals with no opinion, or expressing frustration with the bombardment of it all, meaning, media, government, corporations and the general nature of things today. This does not necessarily mean the millisecond thinkers have completely checked-out. They are co-workers, probably voters, love their children and fully function in capitalism. However, it suggests the brain only reinforces positions and perspectives established prior to calcification of millisecond thinking. Thus, no need to discuss opinions because they are firmly crystallized. Add this to the space-time complexity discussed earlier, and continual challenges for users to think faster and faster.

Millisecond thinkers are not merely the wide range of IT nerds, millennials, or Generations X, Y, or Z. It is the full-time working soccer mom who is also selling tickets on the school’s annual silent auction committee. It is the educator and the returning adult learner juggling family and job. Media and government workers, environmentalists and coal miners. Rich and poor, any gender or ethnicity. No one is immune depending on the challenges or factors not yet sufficiently studied by researchers. According to one survey, 99 percent of employees work full-time, averaging 47 hours per week. Those with young children put in more hours at work per week than their non-parent colleagues (Hochschild, 2012). This may be due to the slow or zero growth in salaries in the United States; 0.2 percent since the early 1970s. According to, if workers want increased wages, they must steadily produce more per hour (2017). Again, corporate millisecond thinking is a deterministic algorithm: increase the N because the +1, in this case 47 hours a week instead of 40 hours per week, is non-deterministic of receiving a raise. This is especially the case for salaried workers. Even more N is expected if the worker telecommutes.

To make assumptions that surveys, polls and implicit psychology produce a deterministic world where dominant groups think the same way, and then classify this as a solution for any of the world’s maladies, is not logical. At the time of this writing, there is general chaos all over the world in media, government/politics, corporations and the general nature of things. 

Information changes in milliseconds through bots impersonating humans. As research has shown, multi-tasking does not actually result in more productivity, and the same is true for millisecond thinking. Millisecond thinking is more likely to create tribalism, narcissism, and painful inequities because the brain only sees its own space and time. It diminishes decisions that are better made with diverse perspectives all based on facts, the content of character and considering the +1 or the “other.”

How is Millisecond Thinking Possibly Organized in the Brain?

Thinking in milliseconds, and still applying space and time complexities, must be coded primarily through our external-facing visual system. Like deterministic and non-deterministic algorithms, the human brain has two streams of visual processing.

The ventral stream manages identification and recognition or the ‘what’ of information. The dorsal stream is responsible for the spatial system or the ‘where’ of information (Metzinger, ed.; Goodale & Murphy, 2000). The ventral and dorsal systems both process information but in different ways. In millisecond thinking, it would appear the dorsal stream is more concerned with the moment-to-moment activities directed at an object of the world (Metzinger, ed.; Goodale &Milner, 2000).

The dorsal subsystem is layered upon the ventral stream of endurance, relations and permitting long-term perceptual representations. These foundations within the user may play an essential role in attaching meaning and value to one’s external environment. There is also significance to an individual’s knowledge base about the world. The ventral stream cannot be adequately interpreted in milliseconds.

Logical Optimism

Millisecond thinking is not based on any of the demographics or polling users are reduced to when believing in various technological milieus. Ironically, technology started as the mechanism of efficiency to transmit data and create repositories for future scientific generations. When technology entered our homes and workplaces, it was going to use less paper and “save trees.”  We were going to enjoy social networking and Viruses were related to the human relationship with germs-and bacteria, not the computer. Now, the computer controls most things. Most P through 12 schools have no civics classes or writing courses as if they were educating robots. 

The more logical correction may be in millisecond thinkers recognizing the value in simplicity and to seek explanations that allow relativity in interpretation. This is logical because millisecond thinking threatens humans with polarization or a domineering result where a group is taking no account of other people's wishes or opinions. It is logical to be mindful of what part of us is present thinking after weighing the various facts and negotiating the most positive outcome for all. It is not logical to assume the opinions from only those who are conditioned like you, through millisecond thinking or through one’s privilege. 

The antidote to millisecond thinking would require human empathy, the outer-facing capability to evolve our ventral stream identification just long enough to sincerely listen to a spatial point-of-view unlike our own.  Developing a daily mindfulness activity such as meditation, exercise, yoga or gratitude journaling would slow down millisecond thinking. No matter how long it takes. 


Brookshear, J. G. (2009). Computer science: An overview. 10th ed. Pearson Education Inc., Boston MA.  

Foer, J. (2011). Moonwalking with Einstein: The art ad science of remembering everything. A Penguin USA.

Hochschild, A. (2012). The outsourced self: What happens when we pay others to live our lives for us. Metropolitan Books Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Metzinger (ed.) (2000). Neural correlates of consciousness. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Shambaugh, J. and Munn, R. (Nov. 14, 2017). Why wages aren’t growing in America. Retrieved from (Originally appeared in the Harvard Business Review on October 24, 2017).

Vox (2018). Explained. eSports. Netflix.

About the Author

Dr. Desiree L. DePriest is an IT/AI and instructional design professor at Purdue University Global (formerly Kaplan University) for 13 years. Desiree’s expertise is in information systems and artificial intelligence in business environments.  She holds a Ph.D., in Management & Organization with emphasis in Information Technology, along with two masters degrees (Telecom and IS respectively). Desiree has a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and two certificates in ABA and I-O psychology which greatly assist in her work in the various areas of business intelligence, industrial and organizational motivation and attitudes. She is the Vice-chair of the IRB. Desiree created Purdue Global Internship Program – Technology (PGIP-T) (formerly KapTechnology) which is an internship for IT and business students wanting real world experience prior to graduation. She also created the Graduate Information Technology Association (GITA) and serves as Faculty Advisor. Desiree recently won the “Best Practices” award for her work in the internship from the American Association of Adult Continuing Education (AAACE). 

Her publications include research in persuasive and predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality, and pattern recognition. Desiree’s recent interests have expanded to neural correlates of consciousness (NCC), quantum teaming (QT) and cognitive coupling (CC). Quantum Teaming is the equivalent to other quality management methodologies with particular focus on virtual team environments. Desiree presents throughout the year at conferences in these areas.  She is the author of Quantum Teaming: The Primer, available on

Dr. DePriest will be presenting "Algorithms and Symbols: Understanding the Language of Human Consumption" at #SIDLIT2018 on Thursday (Aug. 2)  at 8 a.m.  

She may be reached at  

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