Think? Sorry, Too Busy!

It’s a bit ironic that I am posting this on my blog — another of the digital media that the the person I’m about to cite thinks are killing our ability to think.  Of course it isn’t the media or the devices that are impeding our thinking but rather the sheer volume of information they enable to reach us (and, more recently, for us to interact with) that is replacing the time that used to be spent in quiet contemplation. I could, if so inclined, spend hours reading Shakespeare on my iPhone rather than checking e-mail and posting Facebook updates. In my work on what I call Pillar Trends, the continued exponential increase in data and computing power is something that I cite as both an opportunity and a threat, but that’s a separate post.

From David Bollier’s blog:

“(David) Levy’s research is focused on why the technological devices that are designed to connect us also seem to radically dis-connect us. As Levy puts it, “We now have the most remarkable tools for teaching and learning the world has ever known. How is it that we have less time to think than ever before?” Although our society supposedly prizes creative thought, it in fact gives little respect to the intuitive and the contemplative.”

The cynic in me wants to say that contemplation is on the decline because no one has found a way to make it profitable. In fact, the ability of digital media to destroy the economic value of whatever came before — letters, books, magazines, newspapers are but four — is quite extraordinary. Each precedent, more geared to slower consumption and, by inference, reflection, is replaced by something more interactive, non-linear, and festooned with real-time updates, comment streams, and other enhancements that feed the “more, faster, cheaper” aesthetic. Unfortunately rather than supplementing and complementing what has come before, they obliterate it without regard for the social value it represents. Economic value is the only goal and the only yardstick. Social value has plenty of admirers but too few evangelists.

I stick with analog books because they give me an excuse to focus (sad that I need one, isn’t it) and tune out the e-mail, etc.  I’ll be on the Acela to New York tomorrow and look forward to three-and-a-half hours of reading and relaxing. The world will live for that long without a Facebook update from me.

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