In the last few decades, the World Wide Web, search engines, mass video broadcasting, social networks, and many other tools attributed to the so-called “attention economy” have fundamentally changed human behavior and self-organization.
It’s a fascinating time to be alive, but it’s also frightening because we are all test subjects in an unmanaged, unauthorized, and inadvertent experiment on the human race.
This article profiles visionary scientist Michael Goldhaber, who, thirty five years ago, predicted the rise of these technologies and their pervasive impact on our lives. He shares the ambivalence many of us feel:
“It’s amazing and disturbing to see this develop to the extent it has,” he said when I asked him if he felt like a Cassandra of the internet age. Most obviously, he saw Mr. Trump — and the tweets, rallies and cable news dominance that defined his presidency — as a near-perfect product of an attention economy, a truth that disturbed him greatly.
Goldhaber offers some insights about how we can each, individually, address these challenges in our own lives:
“It’s not a question of sitting by yourself and doing nothing,” Mr. Goldhaber told me. “But instead asking, ‘How do you allocate the attention you have in more focused, intentional ways?’” Some of that is personal — thinking critically about who we amplify and re-evaluating our habits and hobbies.
I recommend this article to anyone who ponders this wave of technology, what it’s doing to us and our children, and how we can reassert some measure of control over our fates, individually and collectively.
The internet rewired our brains. He predicted it would.
Thanks to Kimberly Cohen for sharing this article with me.