Attention Deficit: The Unintended Consequences of Digital Connectivity

Attention is a scarce resource and emergent demands for this resource creates a deficit, much like a budget deficit. A unique approach to attention is in defining this resource in terms of time. Balancing the hours available for attention against the hours demanded by a tsunami of content creates a time deficit, called the attention deficit. Humans have never before been so profoundly networked and exchanged such vast quantities of information. Ubiquitous connectivity and sharing have unleashed a torrent of information and created an extravagant demand for mental effort. The very process of filtering information is effortful placing additional stress on cognitive resources. At the same time, devices and algorithms map our preferences, generate predictions to optimize our lives, anesthetizing and shrinking our available attention resources. Greater demand matched against a reduced supply of attention results in an attention deficit, which manifests as cognitive apathy or mental paralysis.
In the face of rapid technological change, a deficit of mental resources precludes adaptation. Adjusting to technological change is an effortful process since it requires reframing and rebalancing of lifestyles and world-views. In order to conserve scarce attention resources, there is resistance to change and a refusal to adapt in the event of change. This manifests as risk aversion. The principle thesis of this blog is that fear, mistrust and risk aversion, driven by the attention deficit and cognitive apathy have diminished creativity, entrepreneurship and risk taking.

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