November 16, 2013


Why I read

An odd title, perhaps, but I was inspired to post briefly this morning by an excellent article in The Atlantic, one of my favourite journals. Its thesis is simple: the use of search engines (with their immense scope and speed, and the ubiquity of hyperlinks) is having the effect of making us impatient with (or incapable of) sustained arguments. I strongly believe this is happening, and it affects all aspects of modern life, from relationships to politics.

Attention span attenuation, for me, reached its nadir with Twitter: 140 characters to define your position. Speaking more generally, I watch people when I am out and about, but am often alone in this activity: making eye contact with strangers is rare when all have their attention buried in a smart phone, connecting to someone who is in another place; another time zone, possible, or another country. I watch someone walk into a light pole once.

Have you watched a group of people at a restaurant—where, on a ‘social’ occasion, every one of them is texting someone who is somewhere else? Or maybe not—I imagine that some are texting each other, because the medium is ‘easier’ than actually engaging with another human being.

The article is HERE.

I read because I spent many years learning how to read, how to structure an argument, and how to dispassionately assess a competing argument*

*I must stop here; this sentence is exactly 140 characters

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