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Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age

Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age

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Foreword by Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and The Bill McKibben Reader We have vast oceans of information at our disposal, yet increasingly we seek knowledge with brief glimpses at online headlines while juggling other tasks. We are networked as never before, but we communicate even with our most intimate friends and family via instant messaging, email, and fleeting face-to-face moments that are rescheduled a dozen times, then punctuated when they do occur with electronic interruptions and a lack of focus. Despite our wondrous technologies and scientific advances, we are nurturing a culture of diffusion, fragmentation, and detachment. In this new world, something crucial is missing--attention. Attention is the key to recapturing our ability to reconnect, reflect, and relax; the secret to coping with a mobile, multitasking, virtual world that isn't going to slow down or get simpler. Attention can keep us grounded and focused--not diffused and fragmented. Distracted offers the cutting-edge solutions we need to cure--not just live with--an epidemic of inattention. How did we get to the point where we keep one eye on our Blackberry and one eye on our spouse--in bed? At a time when we can contact millions of people worldwide, why is it hard to schedule a simple family supper? Most importantly, what can we do about it?Journey with Maggie Jackson as she explores the many ways in which we are eroding our capacity for deep, sustained attention-the building block of intimacy, wisdom, and cultural progress. In her sweeping quest to unravel the nature of attention and detail its erosion, she introduces us to scientists, cartographers, marketers, educators, wired teens, virtual lovers from the telegraph age, and roboticists building smart machines to comfort and care for us. She takes us from the nineteenth-century roots of our mobile, virtual multitasking ways into a darkening future of snippets, glimpses, skimming, McThinking, and mistrust.Jackson makes it clear that if we continue down this road of scattered attention spans and widespread societal ADD, we will be in danger of squandering and devaluing the essence of humanity, and our technological age could ultimately slip into cultural decline. But we are just as capable of igniting a renaissance of attention by strengthening our varied powers of focus and perception, the keys to judgment, memory, morality, and happiness. She investigates the science of attention--describing some of the exciting new scientific research that shows how attention skills can be nurtured. Taking us beyond Blink, Faster, and CrazyBusy, Distraction is unique. It's simultaneously an original expose of the multifaceted nature of attention, an engaging and often surprising portrait of postmodern life, and a compelling roadmap for cultivating sustained focus and nurturing a more enriched and literate society.