Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Herbert A. Simon, wrote, "What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
Sam Anderson writing for The New York Magazine concludes, "As beneficiaries of the greatest information boom in the history of the world, we are suffering a correspondingly serious poverty of attention."
Anderson further adds, "Adopting the Internet as the hub of our work, play, and commerce has been the intellectual equivalent of adopting corn syrup as the center of our national diet, and we’ve all become mentally obese." Personally I think it's more like we've adopted air as the center of our national diet and we've all become mentally malnourished."
As somebody who basically sells the Internet for work and play, and who must therefore consume it in massive doses, I feel this more acutely than I imagine others do. I sit in meeting with people who's handheld devices are ever-vibrating. These meetings are often a long series of tangents (I'm as much or more to blame for this than anyone, by the way). We often pride ourselves on the ability to switch gears, but not much on our ability to stay focused. In fact, staying focused in this environment may be a hindrance.
Even socially, one who IS able to maintain focus and stay on topic might find themselves out of step with their friends and acquaintances.
And that's where the book DISTRACTION comes in. Author and Journalist Maggie Jackson argues that our society's inability to focus heralds an impending Dark Age—an era historically characterized by the decline of a civilization amid abundance and technological advancement. Jackson posits that our near-religious allegiance to a constant state of motion and addiction to multitasking are eroding our capacity for deep, sustained, perceptive attention—the building block of intimacy, wisdom and cultural progress and stunting society's ability to comprehend what's relevant and permanent.
I have this fantasy that I would invent this sensory deprivation tank where you submerge yourself in warm water, shut the metal door, and stay there for a couple of hours. Sounds like heaven to me.