Psychologist Steven Pinker has a terrific op-ed in the New York Times this morning, responding to the recent flurry of press about how the Internet is destroying the quality of our attention and thinking. Here’s my favorite part of his article:
Yes, the constant arrival of information packets can be distracting or addictive, especially to people with attention deficit disorder. But distraction is not a new phenomenon. The solution is not to bemoan technology but to develop strategies of self-control, as we do with every other temptation in life. Turn off e-mail or Twitter when you work, put away your Blackberry at dinner time, ask your spouse to call you to bed at a designated hour.
This is exactly what’s been missing from most of the coverage. If you’re going to talk about how the Internet affects our thinking, you need to identify the strategies that mitigate negative impacts and bring out the net’s positive potential. Pinker points in the right direction.