Quoted from the book User Friendly:
As his frequent collaborator Byron Reeves told the New Tork Times, "Everybody thought [computers] were tools, that they were hammers and screwdrivers and things to be looked at in an inanimate fashion. Cliff said, 'No, these things talk, they have relationships with you, and they make you feel good or bad.'"
I've had a similar sentiment recently.
We have these incredibly personal relationships with our computers that I don't think we fully acknowledge or appreciate. Being so ingrained in how we work, play, and communicate, we make sure a computer is never outside of arms reach, and software is designed with this in mind.
Like a misbehaved toddler, they prompt us for attention, asking to be charged when they get tired, tapping us to come back to their world when we've finally found a moment to notice and appreciate our own thoughts. But unlike the toddler, who deserves every ounce of your love and attention, our computers are supposed to work for us. We paid for them, after all.
Caught in an unending avalanche of notifications, emails, and popups, our computers compete endlessly for our attention. How many times have you had a thought, pulled out your phone to pursue that thought, then diverted and did something totally different? Minutes later, if at all, you realize: "oh wait, what was that thing that I was going to find?".
This exact scenario has been happening to me with seemingly increased frequency. Why aren't these super-computers-that-fit-in-our-pocket an obvious force multiplier to how we think and how we learn?
Don't get me wrong, the tools and resources for learning exist. We can type in a search query and find a video, article, or podcast that teaches us anything. It's the intimate relationship with our super computer sidekicks that feels outside our control, that is breaking our brains.
Everything we interact with online feels so noisy. Everything wants our attention. Everything is trying to optimize for engagement, clicks, taps and swipes. Our only windows into the vast collective of learnings from humankind are built and maintained by companies that are tracking the wrong metrics. Sure, quarterly earnings increased due to having more eyeballs on your content, but at what cost?
Weren't these tools supposed to be the bicycles for the mind ?