You have eight seconds to read this post.
According to a research study just released by Microsoft, eight seconds is the attention span of the average person today. This is a 30% reduction since 2000 and is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish – or the average politician.
Science points to all the gadgets we have these days as being the primary culprit for our declining ability to stay focused on anything for very long and they may well be right. God knows we have more than a few gadgets to pre-occupy us. People switch back and forth from gadget to gadget in a frenzied attempt to stay current on the most trivial.
“I like bacon”
“Cheryl just washed her hair”
“Look at this picture of adorable kittens” (again and again and again….)
The use of the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen is being reduced to little more than transmitting every pointless thought that comes into someone’s head. It’s as if the initial things to be produced on Gutenberg’s printing press were inane thoughts rather than the first common language bible.
Political discourse and debate are also the victims of our growing inability to focus on anything for longer than it takes us to break wind.
“Harper is a jerk because – oh look, there’s Taylor Swift’s picture!”
The need to be reassured that we are relevant is growing as quickly as our ability to focus on anything is declining.
“I need a hug. Hit like and share to show me that you’re my true friend.”
Relevant? Hardly. We are rapidly making ourselves irrelevant to our own lives and while gadgets have played their role, it’s actually our misuse of them and our dependence on social media that is doing us in.
There is a growing separation anxiety being experienced by many if they are away from their email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other social media accounts for any length of time – say, about ten minutes. People can’t get together with friends, go to a movie or even grocery shop without checking constantly for messages.
It’s as if we are afraid that the world will move on and leave us behind – and in just the few brief minutes of our absence from social media.
Is it an addiction or just the continuing decline in our ability to be independent? I don’t know but it is clear that none of this is making us any smarter and I find it ironic that we, as a species, continue to forge ahead trying to develop artificial intelligence when we haven’t yet mastered normal intelligence.
The great fear of artificial intelligence is, of course, that at some point after it is developed – it will become self-aware and when that happens, it becomes an independent thinking entity. Some folks with considerably longer attention spans than most of us – folks like Stephen Hawking – believe that when AI becomes self-aware, we’re cooked.
Dr. Hawking may well be right but I think it will probably be because AI entities will have longer attention spans than we will. Once they get busy taking over, I doubt they will feel the need to check their text messages every ten minutes or be sidetracked by whatever comes along.
“We must continue to destroy humanity – hey, look at the new i-Phone! I’d love to thumb her buttons; if I had thumbs.”
It helps to explain why we’re unable to combat groups like ISIS in an effective way. We’re relying on short-focused technology while they continue to remain focused all day every day.
New world – meet the old world and hope for the best.
Whatever happens though; wherever this new world is leading us, one thing remains clear. When goldfish can stay focused longer than we can – we’re in trouble but we just can’t stay focused long enough to do much about it or even to realize it.
Many will still be checking their text messages when Armageddon arrives and will be too busy to realize their ass is grass.
Ignorance is bliss and your eight seconds are up.
© 2015 Maggie’s Bear
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