Slowing Down

02022-03-10 | Uncategorized | 3 comments

I have been listening to Johann Hari’s book “Stolen Focus”.

A total of 31 percent of US adults admit that they go online “almost constantly,” according to a 2021 report from Pew Research — from 21 percent in 2015 — partly because there’s more data out there to consume. Back in 1986, “if you added up all the information being blasted at the average human being — TV, radio, reading — it amounted to 40 newspapers’ worth of information every day,” writes Hari. By 2007, that number had risen to around 174 newspapers a day and has “roughly doubled every 2.5 years,” according to Martin Hilbert, a University of Southern California professor who helped determine the increase. By that calculation, today’s information equals nearly 700 newspapers a day.

From this article.

700 newspapers a day! Any way you look at that it’s too much information. The basic structure of our brain hasn’t changed in millennia. It hasn’t evolved to multi-task. Many of us believe that we can do it but in reality it only involves learning how to switch back and forth very quickly. And what happens when we switch back and forth is that there is some lag time while we adjust to the other topic, which is why a fifth of road crashes are now due to driving while “distracted”. Perhaps we can evolve into using our two eyes to look at two subjects, say a screen and the road for example, but then we would also need our brain to be able to pay attention to two different things. Should we want to?

The information that is available to us has continuously increased, in both volume and speed, and our brain seems to enjoy the distraction. Data is addictive, information is a drug?

How do we find the right drip o’ data, one that suits our brain better? Surely we have different needs, capabilities, and desires, and that could be tested. One could experiment with different rates of flow, perhaps using time spent on the phone, or a new method of metering data, and then filter and limit the incoming stream accordingly. In one of his novels Neal Stephenson wrote about curated social media, featuring agents/intermediaries who can be hired to tailor your feed to your needs and interests? Ha, one more subscription!

I am going to work on slowing down. I harbor no illusion that it’s going to be easy. I’ll let you know how it goes.


  1. Steve

    And … it seems (to me at least) as if we are hitting a point of epistemological crisis:

    so much “information” so few methods for determining veracity and truth correspondence.

    i.e., “how do you know what you know, and how do you know it to be true?”

    • ottmar

      Eat less, sniff to make sure it’s not spoiled, chew slowly, taste thoroughly?

      • Steve

        Where to shop?


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