Earlier this summer I wrote about the book Dreamland. If you haven’t yet read Dreamland, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I have another book I’d like to recommend. Last June I was at a party and Worthington parent Aimee Wellejus recommended that I read the book “A Deadly Wandering” by Matt Richtel. Now, for those of you that know Aimee, I wasn’t about to not do what she told me to. That would be very bad, so I immediately downloaded the book onto my Kindle.
Aimee was right (as she usually, mostly, o.k. almost always…) is. The book is a fascinating read and chronicles the groundbreaking case of Reggie Shaw, a Utah teenager who drove into oncoming traffic in 2006, killing two scientists who were commuting to work.
The book, “A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention,” not only details the events and people responsible for eventually prosecuting Reggie and enacting one of the nation’s first bans on texting and driving, but also provides one of the most comprehensive compilations ever on the research on attention.
Among the concepts Richtel examines is the phenomenon of inattention blindness, where a driver might appear to be focused on the road, but is still mentally unable to see his surroundings because his mind is involved in the last text he sent — up to 15 seconds earlier.
In addition the book describes the neuroscientists seeking to understand attention. The simple question is: are the tools of our age (Moore’s law: “computing power doubles every eighteen months to two years”) overloading our mental grid? Is Metcalfe’s law (“defines the value of a telecommunications network … as proportional to the square of the number of users”) amplifying the human social urge to be on top of things to the point where we are essentially addicted to our devices? Hear that ring, get a shot of dopamine. The constant undercurrent of content undermines our attentiveness – no one actually multi-tasks (although we all think we multi-task).
So as I write this blog on a device and have checked my cellphone three times for twitter updates while writing this blog, it does make me pause. How should we deal with our devices? How much time should my children spend on their devices? When is texting each evening normal for my 13 year old and when is it too much? What role should devices play for students during the school day? These are questions I’m asking myself after reading this book and I think they’re really the questions of our time. I don’t know the answers but I’d be interested in your perspective after you’ve read the book.