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Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age + The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains + The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future(Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591027489
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591027485
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this richly detailed and passionately argued book, Jackson (What's Happening to Home?) warns that modern society's inability to focus heralds an impending Dark Age—an era historically characterized by the decline of a civilization amid abundance and technological advancement. Jackson posits that our near-religious allegiance to a constant state of motion and addiction to multitasking are eroding our capacity for deep, sustained, perceptive attention—the building block of intimacy, wisdom and cultural progress and stunting society's ability to comprehend what's relevant and permanent. The author provides a lively historical survey of attention, drawing upon philosophy, the impact of scientific innovations and her own experiences to investigate the possible genetic and psychological roots of distraction. While Jackson cites modern virtual life (the social network Facebook and online interactive game Second Life), her research is largely mired in the previous century, and she draws weak parallels between romance via telegraph and online dating, and supernatural spiritualism and a newfound desire to reconnect. Despite the detours (a cultural history of the fork?), Jackson has produced a well-rounded and well-researched account of the travails facing an ADD society and how to reinvigorate a renaissance of attention. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"In a typical scientist-cum-philosopher style, Jackson manages to ask all the right questions, and ultimately leaves it up to us to decide our own fate. And in case we still aren't paying attention, she slaps us upside the virtual head with a frightening suggestion: 'We just might be too busy, wired, split-focused, and distracted to notice a return to an era of shadows and fear.'" --Pop Matters, Jul. 31, 2008 "Usually when a book is really good, I'll say it was a page-turner or I couldn't out it down. Oddly enough, I can't say that about Distracted. The reason, however, is the book made me stop and think. The author would sometimes make a point so profound or so worth mulling over that I just had to stop and digest it for a while. How many books can you think of that make you want to do that?" --Mind Connection, June 21, 2008 " Jackson offers us both a wake-up call Chr(45) and a reason for hope." --Psych Links Blog, July 21 2008 "If you are in the mood for a serious look at how society is in a decline amidst the greatest explosion of technological advance in the history of the world, you will not be disappointed." --My Shelf.com, 2008 "Jackson is not a pessimist; she believes we have the capability to regain our ability to pay attention and avoid the coming crisis she warns of. But whether or not you believe we are headed into another dark age, as Jackson claims, there is no question that taking at least some of her ideas to heart would do us all good." --Culture Cartel.com, October 20, 2008 "Maggie Jackson's book Distracted will serve as a wonderful guide for us on this journey as we begin to recognize and confess the ways in which we daily are inattentive and distracted." --Englewood Review of Books, September 5, 2008 "Jackson raises a number of important issues that deserve to be taken seriously." --Metapsychology online reviews, Vol. 13, Issue 2, January 6, 2009

"This is an important book...a harrowing documentation of our modern world's descent into fragmentation, self alienation, and emptiness brought on, to a large extent, by communication technologies that distract us, dislocate us, and destroy our inner lives." --Alan Lightman, MIT Professor and author of the bestselling Einstein's Dreams and National Book Award finalist The Diagnosis

"Distracted does concentrate the mind on a real problem of modern life." --The Wall Street Journal

"This fascinating book on America's collective ADD is a wake-up call to all of us to take back our lives, turn off the technology, and focus on paying attention to what makes us human and fulfilled." --Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor and author of America the Principled and Confidence

"Jackson is on to something. Just how detrimental are the effects of our lifestyle on our well-being...Distracted gives us much to fret about." -- --New York Post


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Customer Reviews

Jackson's book is not without its merits.
David D. Metcalf
I, myself, am afraid of the world that I live in at times and have said that we suffer from "too much information", "too much choice" and basically just "too much".
Tina
When you read her book, which is the result of intense research, you will probably also agree.
M. L Lamendola

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

197 of 207 people found the following review helpful By M. L Lamendola VINE VOICE on June 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A core concept of the martial arts is focus. That's where you get your power from ("your chi is concentrated"). The laser, which we use to cut through the hardest of steel, is nothing more than focused light. Any endeavor that requires brainpower, from sports to engineering, requires the ability to tune out everything except the task at hand. The ability to focus is a learned skill, and most people aren't learning it. In today's video and sound bite world, in fact, massive numbers of people are unlearning it.

Why does the stupidity epidemic continue to spread, despite its horrible cost? One answer may simply be that people are too distracted to pay attention. Consequently, they are not fully engaging their brains and focusing on what they are reading, saying, seeing, or hearing. This is a real problem in, for example, the task of driving an automobile. All of us can spot the "cell phone driver" from a distance, and there's a reason why.

It's the same reason this country has a shortage of qualified engineers, a shortage of senior project managers (average age now for the SMs in the construction industry is north of sixty), and such widespread ignorance of basic science, geography, and other subjects that require study. It's why only about half of voting-age Americans can correctly identify the three branches of the federal government.

When people are chronically distracted, something is wrong with their ability, desire, or discipline to filter out nonessential things and focus on what matters or what really has value. The result is a watered down life experience and a weakened intellect.

The effect is so pronounced and ubiquitous that, Jackson asserts, we as a society are poised on the edge of a coming dark time.
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78 of 90 people found the following review helpful By David D. Metcalf on January 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In a culture in which Attention Deficit Disorder seems endemic, the health and integrity of American communities appears waning, and individuals seem incapable of managing real and meaningful relationships and communications, Maggie Jackson's Distracted tackles a fascinating and important topic. However, while Jackson addresses these issues, her investigation wanders, her thesis remains unproven, and both reader and writer ultimately end up 'distracted' from answering the key questions the book proposes.

Jackson's book is not without its merits. She examines the crucial issue of attentional capacity and growth in children, and how electronic stimuli fracture attention and foster an 'attention deficit' society. She effectively discusses America's simultaneity - the idea that internet connectivity, technology, and travel, have rendered people both 'everywhere and nowhere.' Decrying this neo-nomadic culture, she also asserts - with convincing narratives - that simultaneity and attentional distraction tends toward the dissolution of American families and relationships.

However, "Distracted" also delves into topics that fail to demonstrably progress its thesis. Jackson discusses individual people and problems which only bear tangential importance to the implications of a 'distracted' society. The virtual world's treatment of death, the dangerous preference of information by an unreliable internet rather than books, and a curious digression on the eating habits of an overworking population, are but a few topics that waste the reader's time. Here and elsewhere, Jackson tries to weave a quilt with discordant fabrics and patterns, and the result is a disjointed and scattered product.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty on June 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There is little doubt that over the past few decades, particularly during what has been referred to as "the computer age," the world of intellectual activity has substantially changed. So-called "multitasking" has become common. "Sound-bites" provide many people with all the news they get. Rapid-moving video games provide many with most of the entertainment they experience. The technology of "virtual" reality is becoming so "real" it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine what is "actually real" from what is "virtually real." Add to all this the reports that attention deficit symdrome (ADD) and hyperactive behavior among the young are growing problems in our fast-moving society, and one might be tempted to conclude that we are, in fact, "distracted" to the point where the erosion of attention will result in a soon-to-occur "dark age."

This latter point, of course, is a paraphrase of the title of Maggie Jackson's latest book "Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age." The major problem we face now, Jackson seems to say, is INATTENTION; that is, we are no longer engaging in such activities as reflection, searching for deeper meanings, taking time to relax and participate in traditionally intimate conversations, getting to know people in a personable way, taking the time to discern the really important from the merely transitory, and so on. We as a society and as individuals are, in other words, not paying ATTENTION. At least to the things we ought to be paying proper attention to.
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