Understanding the Attention Crisis

In this recent class, I give a teaser of information that is coming out in my forthcoming book “Are We All Cyborgs Now?“, co-authored with Joshua Pauling. In the first part of the class I walk through the neuro-mechanisms involved in attention in order better to understand what happens when we our attention is scattered by distractions. I explain how the impact of digital distraction occurs even when you don’t realize you’re being distracted since the potential to be distracted is itself distracting. Indeed, the mere potential to be interrupted by a message or notification drains our ability to focus, and over time this leads to scattered attention and shallow thinking. In order for the higher cognitive functions to work at optimal capacity, the brain needs lots of time during the day when you are at rest, when you are quiet, and when you can focus on specific mental, imaginative or interpersonal tasks against a backdrop of stillness. The solution is to have times of the day when you are not merely unplugged, but lacking even the potential to go online. At about 50 minutes into the class, I explain a rather drastic method I have employed to achieve this, and to eliminate background noise from my life.

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