Socrates and his young friend Plato enjoyed a natter. One of the things the old master liked talking about was talking, about how the spoken word was superior to this new-fangled writing lark, which, far from providing "a recipe for wisdom and memory" as its proponents suggested, actually leads to its opposite, causing forgetfulness as people came to rely on the crutch of "external marks". We know all this, of course, because Plato wrote it down. As Umberto Eco remarked, Socrates expresses "an eternal fear: the fear that a new technological achievement could abolish or destroy something that we consider precious, fruitful, something that represents a value in itself, and a deeply spiritual one".

Conversation around the effect T20 has had - is having - on cricket, particularly its venerable form (its Platonic essence?) of Test matches, often has a similarly future-phobic tenor. However, between the out-and-out sceptics steadfastly maintaining that T20 is somehow "not proper" and the evangelists zealously and uncritically espousing T20's dynamism as the sport's panacea, there are a range of more nuanced positions.

The majority of these recognise the immense interest (and value) created by T20's hothousing of skills - not least the way they have fed back into the Test game, largely eradicating the bore draw, and unquestionably improving batting and fielding. Yet the fence-sitters share the sceptics' justifiable concerns that the proliferation of T20 will lead, if not to the obsolescence of the Test game, then certainly to irreversible changes, not all of them for the better.

Incidentally, Eco's remarks are cited in Nicholas Carr's The Shallows, a book that looks at "neuroplasticity" - the idea that, far from being "hardwired" and unchanging, the brain's neural circuitry is mutable, shifting in response to the stimuli of experience - and the effect that the internet, a vast "distraction machine", is having on human cognition and memory, slowly and implacably "rewiring" our synaptic connections.

It may be a stretch to compare the brain's neuroplasticity to cricket's "nervous system", but if we conceive of a person, or a personality, as the two-way site of translation between sub-personal neural connections and supra-personal social forces (incentives, opportunities, risks, inhibitions), then clearly our changing tastes affect the cricketing superstructure, just as the nature of that structure affects our tastes and dispositions.

Asking a novice spinner to go from a four-day red-ball game to a T20 is a recipe for cognitive overload. Your best ball in T20 often gets carted, while, in four-day cricket, there's a premium on strong grouping with good revs

States of excitation and deprivation insinuate themselves into our innermost being, our personalities. So, much as people addicted to watching pornography can only become aroused in certain ways, perhaps the same is true of those exclusively turned on by the thrusting immediacy of T20. The real issue, though, is not whether generations reared on T20 will find Tests boring as spectators but that its future players are not learning some of the skills required to prosper in red-ball cricket.

This is not the case with fielding and batting - which, as I say, have been enhanced, and in turn have enhanced red-ball cricket - especially since the latter is often about decision-making, applying rather than honing skills. Learning how to switch-hit cannot detract from your ability to bat three sessions. Fast bowling's margins for error mean learning the trade isn't especially adversely affected by T20 either (although the emphasis on explosiveness over stamina may have knock-on effects), but can the same be said of spin bowling?

A friend who bowled spin in county cricket in the middle of the 2000s tells of receiving, while a teenager making his way in the game, an invaluable piece of advice from Australian offspinner Ashley Mallett: "You attack and defend with the same ball". Master a stock ball, and it will be equally useful with four round the bat in the first-class game or five on the fence in 50-over cricket.

Today, less than 15 years later, he no longer believes the truism holds. Why? Because of T20, which, above all other reasons suggested for England's dearth of international-class spinning options (greentops, big bats, small boundaries, etc) is affecting the way young spinners are learning the game. Asking a novice spinner to go from a four-day red-ball game to a T20 is a recipe for cognitive overload. The skills just aren't complementary. Your best ball in T20 often gets carted, while in four-day cricket there's a premium on strong grouping with good revs, giving your captain control and options.

So how does English cricket address this? How do you swim against the T20 tide?

In an interview with Nick Knight on Sky before Christmas, English cricket supremo Andrew Strauss spoke of placing stronger emphasis on white-ball cricket, suggesting a potential need for separation and specialisation. "We need to make sure we're very clear on what our plan is, and we stick to that plan religiously," he said. "Otherwise it's very easy to go on a slippery slope, down a route we've been on before, and if we do that we'll probably get the same results".

Quite apart from the fact that being clear about, and adhesive to, the plan is seemingly given greater importance than actually having the correct plan in the first place Strauss' vision speaks of a bifurcation - T20 this way, Test matches that - that only the best players will bridge.

So what do today's young spinners do? Which skills do they pursue?

The rewards for accomplished T20 bowlers are obvious, and early specialisation is tempting. Bear in mind, too, the palpable temptation for counties to throw a promising spinner into white-ball cricket for short-term gain, and that spinners have to prove themselves - one way or t'other - by the age of 23, 24 (yes, they will fully mature later, but they have to have matured enough by then to inspire the faith of new contracts). Legspinners Max Waller, 28, and Will Beer, 27, are still on county books despite having just 17 first-class appearances between them (Waller's last outing was July 2012). Exceptional fielders both, they are confirmed white-ball specialists; T20 is keeping them in the professional game. They have survived, yet that survival undoubtedly came at the expense of their red-ball skills.

Neuroplasticity notwithstanding, is it reasonable to expect a young spinner to be able to glide seamlessly between formats? Is being chucked in at the deep end the best way to learn how to swim? Would it be better for England's Test prospects to keep them away from the white-ball game entirely? If so, will counties be financially compensated?

There's no need for us to follow Socrates and lament the hegemony of T20. Equally, let's not assume its development of technique, technology and physiology ("guns = runs") is unequivocal progress. Besides freshness, the winds of change may also bring their casualties.

Scott Oliver tweets here