Lost Focus – Johann Hari’s feasible solutions to our burning problems

April 13, 2022 at 4:08 am | Posted in capitalism, Democracy, depression, digital technology, dreams, Leisure, Living creatively, media negativity, mental illness, stress management, writers' health | Leave a comment
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Tsunamis of information are drowning us

We’ve lost our ability to focus. Tsunamis of information are coming at us, drenching us every minute of every waking hour. We can’t keep up with it, mentally or emotionally. What we sacrifice when we try is depth. Not to mention sanity, peace of mind and our democracy.

In other words, the stakes could not be higher. Johann Hari’s Stolen Focus (Bloomsbury, 2021) is an important book, beautifully written, which outlines practical solutions for the problems that unregulated social media has unleashed.

While researching this book, Hari interviewed 250 relevant experts worldwide. One of them was Aza Raskin. You mightn’t have heard of him but chances are, he’s influencing your behaviour every day. His dad invented the Apple Macintosh for Steve Jobs. The internet used to be divided into pages. When you got to the bottom of one, you had to decide to click a button to get to the next page – an active choice that gave you time to think: do I really want to continue reading this? Aza designed a code that took away that choice: infinite scrolling.

All social media now uses a version of this. It automatically loads more when it gets to the bottom. It will scroll infinitely.

Soon after his code took effect, Aza Raskin began noticing how his friends seemed unable to pull themselves away from their devices. He did some sums, and calculated that his invention was making people spend 50% more time than they otherwise would on sites like Twitter. For many it’s vastly more. He saw people becoming angry, hostile and lacking in empathy as their social media use rose. Had he invented something that not only drains away people’s time, but ‘that tears us, rips us, and breaks us’? (p. 116) Continue Reading Lost Focus – Johann Hari’s feasible solutions to our burning problems…

Lamplight on the darkened path

May 7, 2017 at 4:04 am | Posted in capitalism, creativity, Democracy, Living creatively, media negativity, public squalour | Leave a comment
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A Bigger Prize and The Short Goodbye

In Sickness, in Health and in Jail by Mel Jacobs

‘The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some are stronger in the broken places.’ Hemingway said that, and Mel Jacobs quotes him in the front of her poignant memoir, In Sickness, in Health and in Jail (Allen & Unwin, 2016). The author describes the shock, social stigma and logistical nightmares involved when her husband went to jail for two years after breaching the rules concerning his online hunting weapons business.

It was being uncharacteristically slack with a couple of technicalities (which were, granted, against the law, but seemed so minor in the scheme of things) that landed a decent, normally highly moral, small business guy in jail. A pity that the justice system doesn’t use such finely honed powers of legal scrutiny on anyone in finance or banking, I thought, since at the same time I was reading Elisabeth Wynhausen’s riveting The Short Goodbye (Melbourne University Press, 2011) about the global financial crisis.

Almost no one in finance or banking – no matter how illegal, unethical or immoral, no matter how many millions of lives they’ve ruined – will have to endure the appalling conditions of Australian prisons described in Jacobs’ book, and it’s exactly the same in the UK and Europe and the US. As Wynhausen states:

‘Even as unemployment around the globe soared, the financial institutions responsible sped from the wreckage they had left in their wake, to grab whatever they could get their hands on. After nine big Wall Street banks … were bailed out with US$175 billion from American taxpayers under the program President Bush signed into being, though President Obama would cop the flak for it, they handed out nearly US$33 billion in bonuses. (p. 189)

Continue Reading Lamplight on the darkened path…

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