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Technology is destroying our ability to pay attention, making us rude [Video]

Technology is addictive and it’s making us terrible at our jobs. It’s not your fault though, it’s part of our evolutionary wiring.

That’s according Excite founder and Google Ventures Investment Partner Joe Kraus. He argues that the more access we have to the internet the more distracted we’re becoming.

The numbers seem to back him up too. The average internet user visits 40 websites a day and switches between applications more than 36 times in just an hour. But your brain can’t handle all the information it’s being asked to process, which is why the more things you’re doing at once, the more mistakes you make.

It’s not your fault though, it’s your ancestors’. Way back in our evolutionary history, the people who couldn’t switch their attention to the bush rustling next to them ended up being something else’s dinner.

There was a time when we used to mostly access the internet at work, meaning that we couldn’t be distracted all the time. As our mobile devices have become smarter though, we’ve been able to carry that distraction around with us all the time.

Smartphones are particularly addictive too. They work on the same principle as slot machines, offering us random rewards and forcing us to check them compulsively. If we knew for certain there were only going to be updates to all the things we check on our phones, we wouldn’t haul them out of our pockets so many times a day.

A side effect of this addiction is that we also become implicitly rude, telling people in the same room as us that there are other things more important than them.

Interestingly, Kraus’ solution isn’t for all of us to go back to our caveman roots. Instead he suggests that we look at where the problem began: at work. All our current devices, he says, have taken what we’ve learned about making people more productive and applied them to personal devices. What we need is a new wave of technology designed for personal, leisure time us.

The movement trying to come up with these new forms of technology is called Slow Tech. A small group of academics, it asks itself if it’s possible to make an “alternative design centre” that allows for “authentic connections”.

It sounds great in theory, whether or not it manages to come up with any real solutions is another thing entirely.

Author | Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter

Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself to be thrown in the deep and did his best stay afloat. When not fused with his keyboard, you can find him... More