The Distraction Addiction

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s lecture about his book, The Distraction Addiction, was a piece for the conscientious members of the modern tech-savvy community.  For this reason, it was necessary to understand the mentality of this group of people, especially those who are tech-savvy or at least major users of technology.  The author was a member of the group of people who have managed to assemble a set plan for how to deal with this sort of situation in a careful and sustainable way.

This being said, a good part of Pang’s lecture focused on the benefits of technology.  He discussed the idea that technology is essentially the embodiment of the rapid evolution of our species.  Not only is it a catalyst for physical evolution, but it further acts as the demonstration of advancement.  An interesting example he gave for this idea was that technology has allowed us to outsource information from our actual memory to muscle memory, allowing us to focus our mental efforts on more important or interesting uses.  Examples of this are typing phone numbers or passcodes based on the way our fingers move when doing it over and over, rather than actually remembering the numbers.

Of course, this isn’t a new phenomenon.  Pang discussed a certain typesetter a long time ago (I don’t know exactly when, but we haven’t had typesetters for a while due to computers) who printed in Greek, but didn’t know the language.  As such, he found a typo in something he was printing, simply because it didn’t feel familiar, even though he didn’t know enough about the language to know it the way a speaker would.

The particularly interesting idea that he presented, though, was through a story of a man named Biku Samahita, a Danish doctor who decided to give up his life among other people and become a Buddhist monk.  Today, he lives in a hermitage in the mountains of Central Sri Lanka, only seeing people about once a month.  Nevertheless, he spends many hours each day online, communicating with followers of Buddhism all over the world through social media.  Even so, he doesn’t get distracted from what he aims to do, like many of us do.  This is the greatest part of Pang’s point: that even for one who aims to separate themselves from people is able to take advantage of the benefits of technology without suffering because of it: that is becoming distracted.

As interesting as this is, though, he didn’t point out too many ways to achieve this, besides simply taking pleasure in breaks from technology and maintaining discipline in one’s use of technology by limiting the time and place where it is used.  Due to the fact that neither of these ideas are very unique, I give credit to Pang for giving an interesting lecture, but do not believe that I took away a satisfactory conclusion from his talk.


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