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Continuous Partial Attention (wikipedia.org)
109 points by laurentdc 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments



All our tools promote this approach to information consumption. Just today I took some time to seriously reconsider my use of electronics—for a couple of months I was able to sustain a very disciplined use of tech: no picking up the phone unless I have an explicit reason, and I have first questioned that reason. No starting an internet browser right away when using my laptop, no phone on the toilet, in bed, etc. But sure I’ve lapsed and find myself wasting tons of time once again...like commenting on hacker news when I could be thinking about serious problems. Oh well. Time to try again.

It’d be nice if our tools promoted disciplined, focused use instead of combatting focus. The internet is a huge component in this.


Good books on this are 'Digital Minimalism' and 'How to break up with your phone'. I get worried that at some point toddlers growing up with tablets from day one will be unable to function as in normal society and most interactions will be completely made up of people staring at a screens.


Can you really drill down into the specifics for why that is a bad future?


Depends what you ultimately value. For example, is it a bad future if humans go extinct?

I value, quite a lot, all the different forms of interaction that aren't mediated through a screen. I worry that in a world of omnipresent entertainment and connection to the mega-mind, we'll lose our individuality and in the process, the things that make being human fun. Why would you ever learn to play the guitar if you have infinite access to every guitar recording ever? How could you ever develop independent political thought, if you're plugged into the matrix 24/7?


Social anxiety disorders like 'telephone phobia' are far more common now then they were a decade ago, and while there hasn't been enough study around precisely why that's the case the leading theory is that social media is making people more prone to anxiety in general. That has a negative impact on how effectively we communicate, and communication is important in pretty much everything.


Another thing could be inventing anxieties where none exist -- e.g. people just don't want to be bothered to use the phone, and "doctors" of psychology etc are all too ok to call it a "phobia".


Because I value human bodies, companionship, and real world interaction. I don't consider the body inferior to the mind (or sex a sin).


I recently noticed that Windows 10 helpfully automatically opens up your browser(s) when you restart your computer so you can pick up right where you left off [1]. That’s great because you don’t need to question whether going right into your email and web browser is the most productive thing you can do to start your day.

[1] https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/all/intern...


> Use my sign info to automatically finish setting up my device after an update or restart.

Oh, great, so not only can choose to not resume where you left off when you intentionally shut down, but that choice will force you to completely lose your place after an unintentional restart due to an update. Genius!


While an interesting concept this just seems to be a term made up by a blogger, with the Wikipedia article solely existing to link to a few sites by the blogger and others rehashing the concept.

This is not a scientific term, nor does there seem to be any research on what this is and whether the premises are right. E.g. the 'multi-tasking' research found very clearly that there's no such thing as multi-tasking, rather we switch rapidly between tasks and this context-switching is not very efficient. I don't see how 'continuous partial attention' would be possible in light of this.


>This is not a scientific term

There was never a bar that a term or concept had to be "scientific" to be valuable, interesting, enlightening and so on...


> CPA is an automatic process, motivated only by "a desire to be a live node on the network" ... CPA is motivated not by productivity but by connectivity.

It's about detecting predators before they eat you or prey before you starve or mates before your genes leave the pool. Modern networks are just a modern source of that data.

We're hard wired for CPA by a billion generations.


A billion? So since before the big bang... (I agree with your statement otherwise.)


The further back you go in the evolutionary chain the shorter generations tend to be. I doubt a billion generations of bacteria would carry us back to the big bang.

I also take this idea, that predator detection predates humanity and goes deep into our ancestral roots, to be the commenter's point.


Good point. I was thinking humans, which was silly.


There are traces of life greater than 3 billion years old. If there averaged 1 generation every 3 years we're into the billions. Smaller organisms tend to reproduce faster than larger ones, and our ancestors, all inclusive, have mostly been microscopic.


Good point. I was thinking humans, which was silly.


One billion hours is about 100,000 years and plenty of bacteria reproduce faster.

There was also probably at least 500 million years of only single cellular life.

1 billion seems in the neighborhood of the number of generations or maybe even a few orders of magnitude too low.


Good point. I was thinking humans, which was silly.


Related classic video: "The User is Drunk" https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r2CbbBLVaPk




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