A few weeks ago, Elen told me that one of the reasons why humans are so easily distracted is because we’ve been trained over generations to feel rewarded when we notice changes around us. This sense of reward makes us want to notice small changes in our environment – very useful when there’s a big hungry cat down the road, less useful when sitting in front of a screen all day repeatedly pressing a “check mail” button until a new message ([insert spam exceprt here]) shows on the screen.
I think of this while doing my best thinking. In front of where I do my best thinking, there’s a copy of Wired Magazine. While paging through it, I feel silly for being distracted from my distracted thoughts. But not too silly. The magazine is constructed to be completely distracting. Half of the pages are advertisements; half of the other half are articles. The other half of the other half are clumps of text dipped and fried in glittery graphics.
While doing my best thinking, if there are magazines in front of me, I’m drawn to the byte-sized data rather than the potentially informative articles. I worry that these habits train me to crave only short-term satisfaction.
Once done with my best thinking, I flush. Then I envision a world where the human race splits into two, HG-Wells’s-The-Time-Machine-style. One half short-term thinkers: clammoring for anything in front of them; the other long-term: committing to depth over breadth. Both species end up down the evolutionary drain because both have become too specialized.
If our race is destined to split and die out I read magazines, I’m not too worried. It won’t affect me short- or long-term.