Joe Kraus, a partner at Google Ventures, posted a talk last week about Slow Tech which I highly recommend. Here's the abstract:
- We are creating and encouraging a culture of distraction where we are increasingly disconnected from the people and events around us and increasingly unable to engage in long-form thinking. People now feel anxious when their brains are unstimulated.
- We are losing some very important things by doing this. We threaten the key ingredients behind creativity and insight by filling up all our “gap” time with stimulation. And we inhibit real human connection when we prioritize our phones over our the people right in front of us.
- What can we do about it? Is this path inevitable or can balance be restored?
It should be obvious that I'm very much in agreement with 1) and 2), and have spent the last year working on an answer to 3) that is, in effect, "yes yes, a thousand time yes," as someone somewhere in Jane Austen said (my wife is rereading that last line and probably rethinking having married me).
It makes me wonder, though, if there is such a thing as a "culture of distraction." Not to take anything away from Kraus' talk, but is that an oxymoron? Culture brings to mind things that require a lot of concentration, the accumulated creative thinking and craft work of generations, thousands or millions of person-years. No one who is distracted can make a lasting contribution to their culture. Indeed, part of what scares all of us who worry about distraction is that a "culture of distraction" is a wasteland, the human equivalent of a television, tuned to a dead channel.
[h/t to Eugene Kim, who I hope to actually meet in person one day. And yes, I can mangle Jane Austen, but recite William Gibson from memory.]