•  2 min read

Peak Screen, Tech Responsibility and Multitasking

Apparently, we have reached peak screen. I'm skeptical---but hopeful---that this is the case.

Screens are insatiable. At a cognitive level, they are voracious vampires for your attention, and as soon as you look at one, you are basically toast.

There are studies that bear this out. One, by a team led by Adrian Ward, a marketing professor at the University of Texas’ business school, found that the mere presence of a smartphone within glancing distance can significantly reduce your cognitive capacity. Your phone is so irresistible that when you can see it, you cannot help but spend a lot of otherwise valuable mental energy trying to not look at it.

When you do give in, you lose your mind.

(As an aside, reading this article reminded me of this tweet from way back in 2010.)

Related: We’re Not Addicted to Smartphones, We’re Addicted to Social Interaction. Interesting read, with both complementary and opposing viewpoints to the NYT article.

There's a great interview with Anil Dash in a recent episode of Recode's Too Embarrassed to Ask podcast where he talks about how tech companies should be held more responsible for the products they're building.

[...] (H)e said he had no sympathy for one of the commonest lines from techies hoping to shirk responsibility — “We’re good people and we’re trying our best” — a line that, incidentally, Dash himself had used as a younger entrepreneur when questioned about one of his products.

“So what?” he asked. “It’s not relevant! Let’s talk about the harm and who’s vulnerable.”

Incidentally, Dash also wrote a piece earlier this year titled 12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech that is worth spending some time reading.

Following on from some of the links I posted about Project Maven, etc a few weeks ago, I found myself nodding along to Ethan Marcotte's pondering on the blurriness of ethical lines. He also links off to some other articles and resources that are worth a look if you're interested in this kind of thing.

Somewhat timely, given that the 4th of July falls this week, today I learned that the American Revolution wasn't a local war, but part of a much larger, global conflict involving Britain, France, Spain, the Dutch Republic, Jamaica, Gibraltar and India.

I got suckered in to reading What is wrong with tolerance by the semi-clickbait-y headline (and was prepared to get all indignant about it), but there's a well-reasoned argument here that the idea of reciprocity, rather than tolerance, is the key to building "better"---or at least, less dysfunctional---societies:

Reciprocity is a philosophy, a social ethic, a way of seeing the world, and a psychology. At its most basic distillation, it can serve as a description of both what binds individuals and groups to and within a society, and the mutual exchange of culture that serves as the lifeblood of all prosperous societies.

And finally, in what should be news to nobody, it turns out that the concept of multitasking is, in fact, a giant pile of crap:

While managers view multitasking as a means to increase productivity, neuroscientists couldn’t disagree more. Decades of research has shown that the human brain wasn’t designed to multitask, and pushing workers to do so not only leads to stressful work environments but also kills productivity—not to mention profits.

The irony is not lost on me that I put a lot of this post together while doing a bunch of other stuff. Whatever.