►We provide a brief prognosis of the future of the dark side. A crisis of attention I want to ask people a simple question: are you happy with your relationship with your phone. I don’t think I have a healthy relationship with mine. If I let it, it easily fills up those gaps in my day—some gaps of boredom, some of solitude.
In the pre-smartphone era we accessed the internet roughly five times per day, in longer chunks.Turns out if you pull a handle and it pays out predictably, you very quickly figure it out and stop pulling. The amazing part to me is that we all look around at each other and see ourselves, as adults, failing and then we give these devices to kids and expect them to do better. In fact, as parents of teenagers know, they fare far worse… Whatever it was, likely, you were LOST IN THE MOMENT, completely absorbed in what you were doing. Where’s the #1 reported place where people get insight? But, with smartphones, we aren’t looking at a work device, we’re looking at a lifestyle device. But, all the hardware, all the software, all the UI it has, carries with it 50 years of underyling assumptions – that the purpose of it’s existence is to make us more productive and more efficient. I’d guess that it’s going to be more fast paced than ever. Now imagine your own child in stark contrast to that culture of distraction. In 10 years, that’s going to feel VERY VERY different than the norm.But, make the reward random and people have a very hard time stopping. Do you know what the average # of text messages a 13-17 year old teenage girl sends and receives every month? The Slow Tech folks ask the question – can we alter the purpose of lifestyle technologies to focus on alternative aims? That people are going to be even more distracted, even more unable to pay attention to things for any length of time. The ones that did look, only to see it was a harmless bird, are. The second reason is something casinos have known for a long time. Think about your own examples when you felt at your most creative or your best performance. Once people experience the zone, most of us want to get back there. We want to OVERCOME OUR FEAR OF BOREDOM, OUR ANXIETY OF BEING UNSTIMULATED recognize the value of gap time and not have anxiety about it. From sunup Sunday to when I put the kids to bed I do no phone, no email, no TV, no radio. They note that the primary way we’ve used technology over the last 50 years has been in the workplace. An ability to pay attention to a problem for a long time.To illustrate, let me ask you if you know what the most profitable part of a casino gaming floor is? Slot machines are extremely powerful earners because they employ a principle called “random payout”. Maybe it was your best round of golf, maybe it was solving a tricky computer science problem. It’s a feeling of peek performance, peek creativity, peek aliveness. In the workout analogy, we don’t want to stop working out our upper body, we want to start working out our legs. One step, I think, is to take a weekly holiday from your devices. And, as a result, its whole focus has been on creating productivity, efficiency and speed. I believe that the biggest gift we can impart on our kids is the ability to be mindful – to pay attention to the things and to the people that are actually around them.