“In his masterwork, Flow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi tells us that the two major components affecting our ability to control and direct our mental resources are time and attention.
On the first, time, most of our verdicts are the same: we don’t have enough of it. In the case of the second, however, the analysis is murkier. While we can all agree that there are a multitude of demands on our attention, it’s not exactly clear whether this is good, bad or neutral. Some would say, for instance, that the attention dividing practice of multitasking is an essential skill for being successful, while others claim that multitasking is a widespread cultural myth; something we aren’t capable of no matter how hard we try.
Maggie Jackson has taken a position in the core of controversy with her book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, in which she argues that our ability to focus attention is facing colossal challenges which we will either manage to meet, or risk falling into a cultural black hole. She recently spent some time with Neuronarrative discussing the science behind attention, whether we can train ourselves to be more focused, and what she believes we must do to avert an attention deficit “dark age.”