How to control your attention and your lifeBy ASHBY FOOTE,
Book Review | Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal
For 60 years, Silicon Valley has been a key engine of the U.S. and world economy. That small stretch of land from San Francisco down to San Jose is where some of the brightest engineers and entrepreneurs invented much of what is today the world’s computer and communications network. Their feats of innovation, productivity gains and wealth creation are the stuff of legend.
But the innovative output of Silicon Valley over the past 15 years has taken a new turn and different course. The chips, devices and networks are still getting faster, smaller and cheaper but many of the most popular applications (apps) that run across those networks and smartphones are headwinds to the productivity that drives progress.
In short, some of the Valley’s newest big things have created an ocean of diversion and distraction. To quote venture investor Peter Thiel, “We wanted flying cars and settled for 140 characters.”
Technology entrepreneurs learn early on that scaling up a business can be a quick way to create stupendous wealth. Silicon Valley excels at scaling and social media platforms are the latest and greatest examples.
Enabled by the remarkable rise of the smartphone, social media platforms have now connected billions of people in a new era of 24-7 always on devices. This is a very big deal and the consequences, both good and bad of this new digital pulsating connectedness, are still being sorted out.
Social media combined with the smartphone is a game changer. Why? Because the distraction of social media platforms is not an accident, but rather a designed-in feature.
Social media's business models crave engagement to sell ever more ads and collect more and more private information about users. That means algorithms and feedback loops that keep users coming back to check out likes, friends and comments that can perpetuate overuse and even cause addiction.
The power to ping and ding devices has turned smartphones into weapons of mass distraction. It’s not just distracted driving that threatens us, it is distracted everything. Walk across a college campus today and you will see zombie-like students strolling along — eyes glued to their phones.
It is this new virulent strain of distraction — a 21st century social pathology — that author Nir Eyal confronts in his important new book, “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.” It is an easy and concise read about a critical topic of our time.
The author is well qualified to opine on the subject having been a writer and lecturer at Stanford on the interplay of technology, psychology, the work place and the home.
The book begins with keen insights on human psychology and how internal and external triggers can undermine our effectiveness. The author provides a framework and some wise rules that if embraced can help readers better understand the drivers of their behavior and become better stewards of their time.
It is worth remembering that, in a world of abundance, time is the final scarce resource. Time stewardship is a key theme in this book.
Most importantly, “Indistractable” points out the perils and hazards of living, working and raising a family in an always connected world.
If you want to be more focused and indistractable, you should read this book.
Ashby Foote III is President of Vector Money Management and serves on the Jackson City Council, Ward 1. He is on the board of Bigger Pie.