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10 things I learned from Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention—and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari

This is yet another book about being distracted by technology. However, in the second half he goes into environmental factors


    1. Mind Wandering as a Creative Process

    The author emphasizes the value of allowing the mind to wander for extended periods, such as during long walks, which can lead to significant creative breakthroughs. Try working up to doing this for hours at a time. He points out that most Eureka stories don't come from grinding at a desk. They come from the time away.

    2. Sleep for brain detoxification

    The brain actually has a process where flushes out toxins. You need to be asleep for this to happen.

    3. Chronic sleep, deprivation leads to dependence on caffeine and junk food

    Been there, done that.

    4. Reading fiction boost empathy

    By reading fiction, you take over the mind of another character. Also by deeply focusing in this way for an extended period of time it helps train your brain. The author emphasizes fiction, but I also get this from nonfiction, biographies or histories.

    5. Mind wandering let you have mental time travel

    Your brain can connect and make sense of disparate things, but it needs to be freely wandering and not distracted.

    6. There is play deprivation

    The author compares childhood of 40 and 50 years ago when kids would go outside and play and make forts and travel around, to today, where a parent is considered negligent in allowing the child to do this. Even though statistically, the world is much safer than it was 50 years ago, people are still terrified to let their children play outside alone. He also points out that what used to be free play and invented games has been replaced by sports where adults teach the rules and enforce the rules. My kids were involved in structured sports. This is better than nothing but they really didn't get to be very good at riding bikes or interacting with kids in an open environment.

    7. Critique of Surveillance Capitalism

    The author criticizes the business model of major apps that trade attention for profit, suggesting a subscription model could better serve users. Facebook (META) reported $34.15 BILLION in revenue just last quarter (2023). That was a lot of ads and a lot of hours on the platform. Their business model requires them to maximize your time where your face is staring at their screen. That and selling your data to Cambridge Analytica.

    8. Impact of Financial Stress on Focus

    Financial stress significantly distracts and reduces the ability to focus, with the author advocating for basic income as a solution to alleviate this stress. The author goes into some detail about our financial stress, which is a constant low stress that distracts you from thinking more deeply. I have found this to be true.

    9. The author feels that ADHD is almost entirely due to lifestyle factors

    This includes growing up in a household or neighborhood where there is a lot of stress, either from financial stress or violence. A lack of nutrition, physical activity, and play and air pollution have a negative effect. This makes sense. Even a mild head cold makes it very difficult to think. In the United States, we medicate this in kids and now adults. In the short term, giving people speed will help, but we don't really know what will happen in the long term.

    10. Modern primary education, tries to undo all of these things

    It replaces play and creativity with memorization and tests. Mind wandering is punished and sometimes medicated away. The food is not nutritious and some schools near me. They have vending machines for junk food that are cheaper than the school food which isn't great in the first place. Schools are crowded and noisy. The author points out that left to their own devices, many kids will do things like build homemade go-karts, or play games. Everything is so highly structured.

    When some schools try to have a "day of play" there are many kids that don't even know what to do.

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