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DTMark

Attention Deficit Issue?

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I've read that working with computers daily can lead to a sort of attention deficit disorder. I use the term lightly because it's an official term for an affliction which I don't think applies to me. But then..

It's certainly true that if I have to wait for any period of time for something to happen - for example I'm waiting on a file of even a few hundred MB to download which doesn't take long - I'll pop a browser window open and check on one of the sites I follow, maybe even this one. It's as if every second has to be 'maximised'. There's 'something else that I could be doing'.

I've been trying to appreciate a wider range of music (step forward ntb, my patient musical mentor) recently with some success. My record collection consists of hundreds of mostly electronic dance 12" singles which I still very much love, but they have been joined by Eva Cassidy, Rickie Lee Jones and Pink Floyd to name but a few. These took some persistence but have been highly rewarding.

I used to read a lot of books. I've picked up a few recently, which really appealed to me, but I seem to have some sort of attention deficit problem with them. I just don't seem to be able to stick with them. Even though I read quickly.

I have a DVD of Hamlet which has been sat there for months. OK, that's hard-going. You don't dive into that enthusiastically after a few beers. Yet I do like Shakespeare and really appreciate the quality of it. But it's an investment of time. I know "Macbeth" and I know "The Tempest" and so those are 'easy going' for me. The point of buying that one was that I haven't seen a production of it before.

And I don't seem to be able to make that investment of time. Yet, it's not as if I am 'rushed off my feet'. I could be watching it now. I could be reading one of the books. I can stick with audiobooks especially if they are productions as opposed to 'someone reading a book aloud' in which case my attention will only hold if the acting - as in the narrator's ability - is superb.

I could truthfully joke that I have an audiobook about procrastination in my Audible wish list which I keep meaning to download, but somehow, I just don't seem to find the time.

Is this an "instant gratification" thing? Is it "modern"? I'm not the most patient person in the world, that's for sure, but I feel sure I used to have greater staying power.

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There's a book Thinking Fast and Slow which clearly divides mental processes into the immediate, reactive response and the slow considered response.

The former is the easiest by far whereas the latter takes mental effort. They both burn up energy so are rivals rather than complementary.

Fast thinking (emotional / immediate response) used to be the perpetual state of the dumbest. When asked why they, say, supported a particular political party they would give a short, trite response. This is because that's all there was.

These days IMO electronic media encourage us all to live in this fast thinking state (Facebook being a prime example) and the more time you spend in that state the more infrequent and harder your slow thinking state becomes.

I recognise a lot in what you're saying and do consciously try to stop the fast thinking state taking me over entirely. I have no TV so will not watch something as a pure distraction and if I have the radio on for other than listening to a specific programme it will be R3 as it tends to encourage thought rather than detract from it.

When on hectic conferences / courses I plan an hour to sit silently in my room to give my brain a chance to process the information overload.

The problem with your mental processes sitting perpetually in this fast thinking mode is that it becomes your natural state; one day you realise that you haven't read a decent book for months despite plenty of spare time. And the unpalatable reason is that it would take so much mental effort that you are pulling away from it.

I genuinely think that we are all rapidly becoming much less capable of deep thought because of the constant and instant hit of electronic media; I include myself BTW.

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Try making a cake or a loaf of bread using your hands only.....gathering the ingredients, equipment, weighing, timing, waiting and enjoying.... Plenty there to concentrate attentions.

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If I have to do something that matters, I frequently just unplug the network connection. Takes about 5 minutes to sink in that my browser is dead, but, after that I can concentrate.

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Good topic and a good post from Frank. I'm in the same boat although I'm just about to spend the day laying turf with just Planet Rock for distraction which is downtime of a sort.

I think it's also an age thing (been there, done that) but I've no time to expand on it at the moment.

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I have have read the Daniel Kahneman book.....very interesting, due to this thread I am now going to finish reading it.....that is what is so good about non fiction books they can be picked up and put down and flicked through during spare moments in time.

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I think if you work with computers your mind and responses speed up. You are able to digest more information on the screen than those who do not use computers so often. I find people who do not work with computers very slow when they are using them in front of me. There are 'brain age' tests that often show that peoplen who use computers or game consoles regularly have 'younger' brains.

It is the same thing with fighter pilots - you read about these split second from death stories involving military jets in the papers but in that time a fighter pilot can work out his/her shopping list, write a note to Mum and contemplate the meaning of life.

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Embrace it, if you want to slow down you'll just end up as cheerful as me. Run with the herd or be trampled by it.

The best time for reading I find is when going to bed, but it's sometimes a problem because of the risk of getting engrossed and staying awake until silly am.

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I agree with TMT the faster you work, move, respond, multitask the better and faster you get....why people who have got used to always filling in time can get irritable when they have a few hours to spare or have to wait, be it in a queue or for other slower people......but you will find if you unwind and slow down, go away/get away for say six weeks to them resume again the fast pace of life it takes time to adjust......once you can leave that frame of living for good, for most they would find it hard to ever go back.....will become aware of a new sense of time and space, just as a productive one.

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I agree with TMT the faster you work, move, respond, multitask the better and faster you get....why people who have got used to always filling in time can get irritable when they have a few hours to spare or have to wait, be it in a queue or for other slower people......but you will find if you unwind and slow down, go away/get away for say six weeks to them resume again the fast pace of life it takes time to adjust......once you can leave that frame of living for good, for most they would find it hard to ever go back.....will become aware of a new sense of time and space, just as a productive one.

I just wish they'd stop being hell-bent in kicking the world into supporting the ever faster, making it seem superficially improved but in fact dragging it down into the mire (things like HS2 being great examples). There are an awful lot of people around who just don't see how bad this all is, and how much worse they're making life, being permamently distracted and caught up in what look like improvements until you think past them.

Any time you introduce something new to the world it should slow it down (but not delay - there's an important subtle difference), make it quieter, more attractive, more characterful. Anything that does the opposite should be condemned to the deepest pits of hell and those wanting it sent to the nearest loony bin. Only then will we get a genuine improvement in quality of life (and I may stop hijacking every other thread to say how crap it all is). Wish I was good at starting movements and motivating people, but they tend not to respond well to "wake up you bunch of contemptible cretins".

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just recently took an official numeracy test for NHS post...adding up, taking away, multiplying, division, time, volume, bill of materials, averages.

not multi choice. workings irrelevant...correct answers required...100% to pass.

some questions I had to think through several times...these are all things one does in a trice on a spreadsheet..doing it manually takes quite a surprising effort....

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I agree with TMT the faster you work, move, respond, multitask the better and faster you get....why people who have got used to always filling in time can get irritable when they have a few hours to spare or have to wait, be it in a queue or for other slower people......but you will find if you unwind and slow down, go away/get away for say six weeks to them resume again the fast pace of life it takes time to adjust......once you can leave that frame of living for good, for most they would find it hard to ever go back.....will become aware of a new sense of time and space, just as a productive one.

Faster at what though?

I think that there is a world of difference between being able to name, say, the first few Roman emperors (simple memory and recall) and writing an essay evaluating the relative contribution of the main factors causing the decline of the Roman Empire which requires thought and analysis. One is easy, one is hard.

The movement of (for convenience) school work onto Tablets means that the questions set necessarily follow a more simplistic style as the computer needs to be able to recognise a right answer and a wrong answer.

If you take a subject like Quantum Physics which is hugely intellectually difficult I can give a good description of it, I can answer quiz questions on it, but I cannot say that I genuinely understand it even though I can give the appearance of doing so. This lack of knowledge of the core of something, whilst being able to skate all over the surface, seems to be where we're all going leaving just a few old-school residual experts to carry on in their silos.

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Faster at what though?

I think that there is a world of difference between being able to name, say, the first few Roman emperors (simple memory and recall) and writing an essay evaluating the relative contribution of the main factors causing the decline of the Roman Empire which requires thought and analysis. One is easy, one is hard.

The movement of (for convenience) school work onto Tablets means that the questions set necessarily follow a more simplistic style as the computer needs to be able to recognise a right answer and a wrong answer.

If you take a subject like Quantum Physics which is hugely intellectually difficult I can give a good description of it, I can answer quiz questions on it, but I cannot say that I genuinely understand it even though I can give the appearance of doing so. This lack of knowledge of the core of something, whilst being able to skate all over the surface, seems to be where we're all going leaving just a few old-school residual experts to carry on in their silos.

nobody understands quantum physics....the theory is constantly changing as new evidence reveals falsification and makes it more sound. One can be up to date with the science in general, but very few would understand the whole theory, if anyone.

Science now requires many sub branches these days, in the cutting edge subjects.

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The method of working on the computer esp. at work means a lot of 'flitting'. After years of this sort of work I struggle to concentrate or to apply myself with any sort of concentrated effort to anything. It is such an issue that I struggle to even sit peacefully and watch a programme on the TV, I have to take everything in bite sized chunks over long periods in order to complete them. I am aware of this issue and have been trying to 're-wire' my brain by facing those things it doesn't want to do by actively trying to avoid flitting in my daily life. But it is sort of like crack cocaine....it is a mental stimulant that it misses if it doesn't get at least a few hours dose every day.

could explain why women can still multitask..they dont use computers so much in the past...they do now.

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nobody understands quantum physics....the theory is constantly changing as new evidence reveals falsification and makes it more sound. One can be up to date with the science in general, but very few would understand the whole theory, if anyone.

Science now requires many sub branches these days, in the cutting edge subjects.

That's not quite what I meant. I did a bit of set theory and group theory, it left me entirely cold but I learned enough techniques and example situations to get through the exams. So I could bluff on it quite happily.

But I knew a postgrad who when I asked him said he had a genuine "feel" for the theory and the Atlas of groups.

This is the difference between having knowledge in your mind, and having to translate into language in order to express it (as you do with feelings to take an example common to everybody) and just having remembered the descriptive words that somebody else has used on the subject.

For Quantum Physics I am definitely in the latter camp. So the knowledge I have is superficial and descriptive. Whereas for other subjects I genuinely understand them thoroughly and am actually slower at expressing them because I am having to do that mental translate from innate knowledge into language to try to explain it somebody else.

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That's not quite what I meant. I did a bit of set theory and group theory, it left me entirely cold but I learned enough techniques and example situations to get through the exams. So I could bluff on it quite happily.

But I knew a postgrad who when I asked him said he had a genuine "feel" for the theory and the Atlas of groups.

This is the difference between having knowledge in your mind, and having to translate into language in order to express it (as you do with feelings to take an example common to everybody) and just having remembered the descriptive words that somebody else has used on the subject.

For Quantum Physics I am definitely in the latter camp. So the knowledge I have is superficial and descriptive. Whereas for other subjects I genuinely understand them thoroughly and am actually slower at expressing them because I am having to do that mental translate from innate knowledge into language to try to explain it somebody else.

The Atlas of Groups.....what a delightful phrase...one to remember.

I know what you mean...try explaining the financial crash, its causes and the "cures" used since 2007 to someone who thinks it is no harder to buy a house today than it was 30 years ago....the inevitable "well, I have to prove 6 months of savings with the society, before I would even be considered, AND it was 12% interest rates"

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The Atlas of Groups.....what a delightful phrase...one to remember.

I know what you mean...try explaining the financial crash, its causes and the "cures" used since 2007 to someone who thinks it is no harder to buy a house today than it was 30 years ago....the inevitable "well, I have to prove 6 months of savings with the society, before I would even be considered, AND it was 12% interest rates"

Not everybody but I frequently hear "well it was hard for me as well".

Yes, hard. But not unreachable.

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Not everybody but I frequently hear "well it was hard for me as well".

Yes, hard. But not unreachable.

well, a lady (colleague) I was talking to recently over a spare hour, explained that she had a couple of IFA friends in the early 2000s who kept her up to date. Astonished by me repeating the exact words she heard them use at the time when she enquired about the amazing deals on offer and why they had them, and the High Street didnt, yet the lenders were the self same banks..."a wall of money looking for a safe place to invest".

I asked her if they told her of the "no checks guaranteed on application"...she said how would they get away with that...I explained, it wasnt the IFA offering no checks, it was the High Street lenders.....hence LIAR LOANS, hence couples on £20K taking £180K IO loans.

reluctantly, the horror stories of her relatives overstretching then began to come out...now she could understand how they got the money.

interesting chat, but funnily enough, I couldnt remember what the S stood for in SIV....structured of course....the device that caused the fabled "wall of money" in the first place.

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Not everybody but I frequently hear "well it was hard for me as well".

Yes, hard. But not unreachable.

Yet another demonstration of people for some reason being unable to see the world they live in and how much worse it's getting.

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Yet another demonstration of people for some reason being unable to see the world they live in and how much worse it's getting.

In the case of houses there can be an underlying smugness of how much "richer than yow" they are because they have a house worth much more than they paid for it.

There is the occasional beacon of fairness who can see all the problems and worry about how the younger generation will get through life without all the certainty and security that they saw as the natural order of things and would like changes made so that they see the same benefits (that being the ability to buy a house on an average salary, rather than making a vast paper profit on it).

Similarly in careers there is a huge amount of luck and it is rare to hear people admit this.

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Faster at what though?

Faster at being faster....running around like headless chickens, filling in diaries, rushing from one place to another, fitting numerous tasks into limited time in the day, picking up messages, replying to messages.......all this effort and business, but in reality getting little done of great importance.......

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