Five years ago, I read a book called “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr. He was sounding an alarm. The more time we spend swimming in digital waters, Mr. Carr argued, the shallower our cognitive capacity becomes, and the less control we have over our attention.Who is at fault here? The "digital waters"? Really? It's not like there was no distraction before. If you are distracted it's your own fault, not the fault of the object(s) you are concerned with. And, yes, you have to be attentive to information, but it is simply false that "wealth of information creates a poverty of attention." It's the lack of control over your attention that creates undifferentiated shallowness.
At the time, I found these ideas intriguing. Five years later, I’m alarmed.
“The Net,” Carr writes, “is by design an interruption system, a machine geared for dividing attention. Frequent interruptions scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory, and make us tense and anxious. The more complex the train of thought we’re involved in, the greater the impairment the distractions cause.”
Or as the economist and Nobel laureate Herbert A. Simon put it even more presciently in 1971, “What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
Friday, July 31, 2015
There is an article in today's New York Times about "Struggling to Disconnect From Our Digital Lives." It starts from the following "premises":