Technology is driving us to distraction: Sunday essay
Posted in: Internet Use/New Technologies at 28/05/2018 00:44
How often are you diverted from a task by the seductive lure of your mobile phone? And does it matter? In a landmark book, James Williams argues we’re losing the power to concentrate
Imagine that you’ve just bought a new GPS device for your car. The first time you use it, it works as expected. However, on the second journey, it takes you to an address a few blocks away from where you had wanted to go. On the third trip, you’re shocked when you find yourself miles away from your intended destination, which is now on the opposite side of town. Frustrated, you decide to return home, but when you enter your address, the GPS gives you a route that would have you driving for hours and ending up in a totally different city.
Like any reasonable person, you would consider this GPS faulty and return it to the store – if not throw it out of your car window. Who would continue to put up with a GPS that they knew would take them somewhere other than where they wanted to go? What reason could anyone possibly have for continuing to tolerate such a thing?
No one would put up with this sort of distraction from a technology that directs them through physical space. Yet we do precisely this, on a daily basis, when it comes to the technologies that direct us through informational space. We have a curiously high tolerance for poor navigability when it comes to our attentional GPSs – those technologies that direct our thoughts, our actions and our lives.