We’re All Out of Focus
Just read a great article on the subject of information overload. It’s kind of long, but it covers the topic pretty comprehensively — from the neuroscience to the philosophy of thought. I know I spend my time unwisely sometimes, which is wasteful.
Over the last several years, the problem of attention has migrated right into the center of our cultural attention. We hunt it in neurology labs, lament its decline on op-ed pages, fetishize it in grassroots quality-of-life movements, diagnose its absence in more and more of our children every year, cultivate it in yoga class twice a week, harness it as the engine of self-help empires, and pump it up to superhuman levels with drugs originally intended to treat Alzheimer’s and narcolepsy. Everyone still pays some form of attention all the time, of course — it’s basically impossible for humans not to — but the currency in which we pay it, and the goods we get in exchange, have changed dramatically.
After reading this article, I am convinced that we need to watch how we spend our time and our attention even more than we watch how we spend our money. As Ferris Bueller said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” There is a lot of information on the internet, and serendipitous discovery is a big part of the magic of the modern world. If we can find a way to focus on fewer tasks at a time, I think we will be able to do just as much and get more out of it.