Our ability to pay attention is collapsing. From the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections comes an examination of why this is happening—and how to get our attention back.
... fresh and well-evidenced ... Hari serves up complicated topics in an accessible, personal, journalistic style that revolves around interviews, not heavy scholarship. The book draws on the insights of a dizzying collection of experts – computer scientists, psychologists, educationalists, childhood authorities, neuroscientists, social scientists. But he manages to adeptly present their ideas in a compact way that smoothly conveys key ideas, though sometimes this method gets a bit too TED Talky (yes, Hari has done TED Talks). Complexities are reduced to three summary points here, six there. At moments, you can visualise the stage presentation and slides ... Rightly, Hari rejects the industry-sympathetic arguments that we are the problem, that if we only had more self-control and spent less time scrolling, emailing and clicking, we could fix ourselves ... In its amiable accessibility and its earnest offer of a basic plan for counteraction, Stolen Focus is a perfect companion (or alternative) volume to Zuboff’s more intimidating and academic Surveillance Capitalism. And it certainly attracts, well, attention.
Where other books about our relationship to technology tend to focus on personal responsibility, stressing the importance of self-control, Stolen Focus takes a step back and examines the ecosystem that created the problem ... Hari’s writing is incredibly readable, and the book combines moments of personal narrative with interviews of scholars and clear explanations of scientific research and experiments.
... well-researched ... draw[s] attention to important concerns while avoiding simplistic self-improvement recommendations ... Some of the chapters are inspiring, such as the one that focuses on the concept of flow, the type of concentration that leads to an almost hypnotic state, where time melts away and thought is inhabited. Even just focusing on focus for this much time is useful, and ends up giving the reader a novel and worthwhile way of measuring our quality of attention ... Since the author prioritizes research, it’s fair to quibble a bit about data. He spends a lot of time talking about ADHD diagnoses (and medications) proliferating, but it’s not clear if that’s because it’s a new problem or just a newly noticed way to deal with an old problem ... That brings us to the blind spot of Stolen Focus. It seems to have been written largely in the Before Times. So the sense of being zonked out on Zoom, which has been the single largest contribution to my personal feeling of having no focus, isn’t addressed, although perhaps the research is just now getting started.