Is attention failure only a roadkill on the highway of economic growth?
In an attempt to regain his own ability to focus, Johann Hari (author of Lost Connections) sets out on a quest to understand the current attention crisis and its causes. By interviewing researchers around the globe he concludes is that there is more to the story than distracting technology and notifications running amok.
Notes and Highlights
📝 The attack on your attention can’t be blamed only on tech. Truth is that things have been speeding up since the 1880’s. The author traces the change back to the idea of economic growth.
📝 Capitalism thrives on sleep deprivation. We sleep 20% less than we did a hundred years ago. Since we can’t consume while we sleep, this fact is wonderful for the economy, but a disaster for our ability to focus.
📝 The invention of ‘Infinite scroll’ increased social media use by 50%. At the end of a webpage and had to make a decision if you wanted to see more. That moment of decision is gone.
📝 “Imagine I could predict all your actions in chess before you made them. It would be trivial for me to dominate you.” This is what most algorithms for are designed to do.
Magicians are proof that you can think that you act on your own will but you are actually manipulated.
📝 If you are disturbed while focused it takes about 23 min to get back to the same level of focus. Most office workers (in the US) never get 1 hour of undisturbed focus in a day.
In this book I learned that while you can do a lot on an individual level to improve attention, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if you fail from time to time. The forces of distractions are built into our environment and society (open offices, always online expectations, etc.). Blaming yourself for failing to focus just adds more stress and further diminish your ability to focus.
This book is essential for understanding the attention crisis we are facing. It’s about more than the urge to sneak away to check your social media at family dinners. A lot of factors are at play, and you need to know about them to understand what you are up against. Then at least you have a chance to create an environment where you can dictate the terms.