We’re All A.D.D. Now

"Paying attention isn't a simple act of self-discipline, but a cognitive ability with deep neurobiological roots — and this complex faculty, says Maggie Jackson, is being woefully undermined by how we're living."

"In Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, Jackson explores the effects of 'our high-speed, overloaded, split-focus and even cybercentric society' on attention. It's not a pretty picture: a never-ending stream of phone calls, e-mails, instant messages, text messages and tweets is part of an institutionalized culture of interruption, and makes it hard to concentrate and think creatively."

"Of course, every modern age is troubled by its new technologies. 'The telegraph might have done just as much to the psyche [of] Victorians as the Blackberry does to us,' said Jackson. 'But at the same time, that doesn't mean that nothing has changed. The question is, how do we confront our own challenges?'"

Source: Digital Overload is Frying Our Brains

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I'm fascinated by the intersection of technology and human thought. I believe that we do not  give sufficient thought to the role that technology plays in shaping our thoughts. Instead, technology becomes metaphor. We understand the world through our technology and, in turn, use that technology to understand ourselves. (For an interesting examination of how the computer-as-mind metaphor has, well, clouded our mind, see: Why the Mind is Not a Computer)  Living as we do in the world, we often do not try to imagine ourselves outside of the world and, therefore, we overlook the obvious. [note 1] We become fascinated by the technology and never really ask ourselves how does that technology shape the way we see and understand the world. If you have used a Kindle (or something similar like the Sony e-Reader) and you compare the experience of reading a book with that device with reading the same book in print (a similar comparison is that of reading a newspaper as opposed to reading it online), you'll quickly discover the role that technology plays in shaping our thoughts. In the case of the electronic readers, it is, quite literally, difficult to "see the whole." Like a mental form of glaucoma, it provides a constricted, almost decontextualized view of the world. This is, in many respects, the effect that movies and television have on us. They show us the world through a narrow lens. [note 2]

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Additional readings related to this subject: Is Google Making Us Stupid? and also The End of Solitude

  1. A.D.D.ers, I believe, have an innate ability to see the world as an outsider would see it, that is, if a Martian were to land here and ask, "Why do people do that?" it is the perceptive A.D.D.er who would be able to see it and explain it from the outside.
  2. By the way, I'm not a Luddite. However, I try to be aware of the role technology plays in our lives.
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