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Archive for the “Smartphone Slavery” Category

Style: "Mad Men"I wrote last week about how we may well be becoming less creative and less able to connect due to the stealth addictiveness of our social media technology.  Creativity, particularly, is a non-rational process we don’t fully understand.  From anecdotal sources as well as an increasing body of scientific evidence, the growing stress most of us experience staying current with social media results in a drop off of focus and revelation.

Don Draper of Mad Men describes how he summons the creative process.  He says, “Think about something deeply, then forget it…then an idea will jump up in your face.”  That sounds about right to me.  (In the past I have shared that when I feel overwhelmed with business conundrums, I turn off my phone and go to the movies—preferably an undemanding one.  Think American Pie, Dumb and Dumber, etc.  Sometimes I just go to sleep, but almost always new ideas will encroach unexpectedly.  Not very spiritual, but it works for me.)

Technology is robbing us of our moments of respite.

Here is an eloquent response to last week’s discussion by serial entrepreneur Tom Cox. I found it extraordinary.  Here’s Tom’s comment.

“I see the zombies everywhere—at dinner gatherings and Starbucks and behind the wheel–all staring at their ‘device.’  When I see them now I will always think of your phrase ‘private technology Idahos.’

Technology has been a great fuel for the culture we have become:  scatter-brained, childishly impatient, bloodless, shallow and myopic.  You, along with Lanier and Carr, highlighted the worst impact of the hyper-addiction to the meaningless use of technology (‘twits twittering!’ and, Facebook—‘the narcissism training center!’):  It is the lost value of actual experience.  Not the virtual, simulated, condensed and artificial kind, of course, but the real stuff.

staff_coxWithout experience we lose the ability to distinguish between what is important and what is not.  And, given our myopic obsession with technology trivia (second only to celebrity gossip) diverting us from reality, we don’t even care.  And with that, the natural ‘recency bias’ that compels humans to over-estimate the importance of NOW and to ignore the consequences of LATER (even if later is tomorrow), becomes a suicidal obsession.  Like Americans today, saucer-eyed zombies worshiping Ben Bernanke, the Electronic Debt Creation God, just as house-flippers did in 2007.

Meanwhile, entertainment technology novocaine helps us ignore all but the unimportant (until it doesn’t) and the ‘now’ (until tomorrow).

It makes me proud to be a Luddite, too.

Sometimes the small things make us realize the larger point.  When I took my son to his first day on campus at college we went to the ‘library’ to get a course catalogue.  Literally none existed.  Not even a copy at the ‘librarians’ desk for reference.  Computer file only.  I could not thumb through the pages to get a bird’s eye view of the majors, or take the book to the beach.  Something was lost, even in a mere compilation of data, much less a work of literary art.  Is there no difference between a study filled with a lifetime of reading experiences and an empty room with an iPad?

Worshipers of the Technology God who think they are not missing something are like those who have never ridden a horse but who “know” what it is like because they saw a re-run of ‘Bonanza’ on TV.

End of rant!”

Not a rant, Tom.  Eloquence.  Thank you.

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foresters_tech_timeoutI’m afraid my career as an indefatigable Luddite continues apace.

A couple of years ago I wrote about Nicholas Carr‘s book The Shallows (Entrepreneurship: To Tweet or not to Tweet), which posits the rewiring of our brains by way of technology and social media.  (Carr first became alarmed when he found himself increasingly unable to concentrate when he sat down to read a book, because of his longing for and growing addiction to the peripatetic excitement of his pinging computer.)

Now comes Douglas Rushkoff’s book Present Shock:  When Everything Happens Now (Hardcover Press, 2013) (The title is a riff on Alvin Toffler‘s Future Shock from the ’70s.)  We’re becoming addicted to what Rushkoff calls a “dopamine squirt,” the ego boost we get from our Twitters, Facebooks, emails and texts.  This leads to a compulsive immersion in the scittering superficiality of keeping current and cool on social media.  According to Rushkoff this is stress inducing and, more importantly, creativity killing.  I certainly agree that we are becoming committed to a sort of always-on, live-streamed reality show which is taking us into creatively shallow, spiritually thin cultural waters.

In other words, technology is turning us into dull-eyed, unpresent I-Zombies.  Rushkoff feels we are losing the gift of revery and connection to our fellow human beings, as well as to brain processes that summon non-rational revelations and “aha”s.

douglasrushkoffThis was brought home to me when I was in Dallas on business last week and found myself a bit lost and late to my next appointment.  I looked for some friendly, authoritative face to approach for aid.  But as I looked around I found every person I saw, shuffling vaguely along fully immersed in their personal private technology Idahos, inured to any person or thing around them.  I didn’t want to rudely interrupt, but I was annoyed because I needed some directions, dammit!  This made me think about how much present richness and human feeling we sacrifice for an ersatch virtual reality.  (I increasingly feel the same way walking down Broadway in New York when half the folks bump into you while texting, rather than taking in the infinitely unique international culture and urban magnificence constantly on display in my never boring city.)

We are often simply losing our real-life experience, our existential present, in order to miss nothing our machines bring us.  Jaron Lanier, who popularized the term “virtual reality,” writing in his book You Are Not A Gadget (Vintage Press, 2010), says this:

“Information is alienated experience.  Stored information might cause experience to be revealed if it is prodded in the right way.  A file on a hard disk does indeed contain information of the kind that objectively exists….But if the bits can potentially mean something to someone, they can only do so if they are experienced.  When that happens a commonality of culture is enacted between the storer and the retriever of the bits.  Experience is the only process that can de-alienate information.”

NicholasOur “eureka” moments may be being sacrificed for a mess of pottage—that mess of pottage being our present experience of superficial sledding on an omnipresent sea of technological connectedness.

So please don’t ping me with a cute picture of your Labradoodle.  I may be busy thinking.  To quote Nicholas Carr again, “Any kind of thought process that requires focus on one thing is what is being disrupted, and, unfortunately, another thing brain science tells us is that the process of paying attention, paying deep attention, activates a lot of our deepest thought processes.  Our long-term memory, the building of conceptual knowledge, critical thinking, all of those things hinge on our ability to pay attention”   Thank you, Nicholas.

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