Attenzione e Distrazione: spunti

Interessante articolo del NYMagazine sull’impatto che le nuove tecnologie hanno sull’attenzione e sulla modifica del modo di apprendere. Diversi spunti interessanti pro/con (in parte anche impliciti nel “Flow”  di Csikszentmihalyi ).

Back in 1971, when the web was still twenty years off and the smallest computers were the size of delivery vans, before the founders of Google had even managed to get themselves born, the polymath economist Herbert A. Simon wrote maybe the most concise possible description of our modern struggle: “What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

…. Are we living through a crisis of attention?

Before I even have a chance to apologize, Meyer responds with the air of an Old Testament prophet. “Yes,” he says. “And I think it’s going to get a lot worse than people expect.” He sees our distraction as a full-blown epidemic—a cognitive plague that has the potential to wipe out an entire generation of focused and productive thought. He compares it, in fact, to smoking. “People aren’t aware what’s happening to their mental processes,” he says, “in the same way that people years ago couldn’t look into their lungs and see the residual deposits.”

…Over the last twenty years, Meyer and a host of other researchers have proved again and again that multitasking, at least as our culture has come to know and love and institutionalize it, is a myth. When you think you’re doing two things at once, you’re almost always just switching rapidly between them, leaking a little mental efficiency with every switch. Meyer says that this is because, to put it simply, the brain processes different kinds of information on a variety of separate “channels”—a language channel, a visual channel, an auditory channel, and so on—each of which can process only one stream of information at a time. If you overburden a channel, the brain becomes inefficient and mistake-prone.

The tech theorist Linda Stone famously coined the phrase “continuous partial attention” to describe our newly frazzled state of mind. American office workers don’t stick with any single task for more than a few minutes at a time; if left uninterrupted, they will most likely interrupt themselves. Since every interruption costs around 25 minutes of productivity, we spend nearly a third of our day recovering from them. We keep an average of eight windows open on our computer screens at one time and skip between them every twenty seconds. When we read online, we hardly even read at all—our eyes run down the page in an F pattern, scanning for keywords. When you add up all the leaks from these constant little switches, soon you’re hemorrhaging a dangerous amount of mental power. People who frequently check their e-mail have tested as less intelligent than people who are actually high on marijuana. Meyer guesses that the damage will take decades to understand, let alone fix.

…The ability to positively wield your attention comes off, in the book, as something of a panacea; Gallagher describes it as “the sine qua non of the quality of life and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience.” It is, in other words, the Holy Grail of self-help: the key to relationships and parenting and mood disorders and weight problems. (You can apparently lose seven pounds in a year through the sheer force of paying attention to your food.)

“You can’t be happy all the time,” Gallagher tells me, “but you can pretty much focus all the time. That’s about as good as it gets.”

The most promising solution to our attention problem, in Gallagher’s mind, is also the most ancient: meditation. Neuroscientists have become obsessed, in recent years, with Buddhists, whose attentional discipline can apparently confer all kinds of benefits even on non-Buddhists. (Some psychologists predict that, in the same way we go out for a jog now, in the future we’ll all do daily 20-to-30-minute “secular attentional workouts.”) Meditation can make your attention less “sticky,” able to notice images flashing by in such quick succession that regular brains would miss them. It has also been shown to elevate your mood, which can then recursively stoke your attention: Research shows that positive emotions cause your visual field to expand. The brains of Buddhist monks asked to meditate on “unconditional loving-kindness and compassion” show instant and remarkable changes: Their left prefrontal cortices (responsible for positive emotions) go into overdrive, they produce gamma waves 30 times more powerful than novice meditators, and their wave activity is coordinated in a way often seen in patients under anesthesia.

Gallagher stresses that because attention is a limited resource—one psychologist has calculated that we can attend to only 110 bits of information per second, or 173 billion bits in an average lifetime—our moment-by-moment choice of attentional targets determines, in a very real sense, the shape of our lives. Rapt’s epigraph comes from the psychologist and philosopher William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” For Gallagher, everything comes down to that one big choice: investing your attention wisely or not.

. The Internet is basically a Skinner box engineered to tap right into our deepest mechanisms of addiction. As B. F. Skinner’s army of lever-pressing rats and pigeons taught us, the most irresistible reward schedule is not, counterintuitively, the one in which we’re rewarded constantly but something called “variable ratio schedule,” in which the rewards arrive at random. And that randomness is practically the Internet’s defining feature: It dispenses its never-ending little shots of positivity—a life-changing e-mail here, a funny YouTube video there—in gloriously unpredictable cycles. It seems unrealistic to expect people to spend all day clicking reward bars—searching the web, scanning the relevant blogs, checking e-mail to see if a co-worker has updated a project—and then just leave those distractions behind, as soon as they’re not strictly required, to engage in “healthy” things like books and ab crunches and undistracted deep conversations with neighbors. It would be like requiring employees to take a few hits of opium throughout the day, then being surprised when it becomes a problem.

…One of the weaknesses of lifehacking as a weapon in the war against distraction, Mann admits, is that it tends to become extremely distracting. You can spend solid days reading reviews of filing techniques and organizational software. “On the web, there’s a certain kind of encouragement to never ask yourself how much information you really need,” he says. “But when I get to the point where I’m seeking advice twelve hours a day on how to take a nap, or what kind of notebook to buy, I’m so far off the idea of lifehacks that it’s indistinguishable from where we started. There are a lot of people out there that find this a very sticky idea, and there’s very little advice right now to tell them that the only thing to do is action, and everything else is horseshit. My wife reminds me sometimes: ‘You have all the information you need to do something right now.’ ”

…It’s important to remember, however, that the most famous moment in all of Proust, the moment that launches the entire monumental project, is a moment of pure distraction: when the narrator, Marcel, eats a spoonful of tea-soaked madeleine and finds himself instantly transported back to the world of his childhood. Proust makes it clear that conscious focus could never have yielded such profound magic: Marcel has to abandon the constraints of what he calls “voluntary memory”—the kind of narrow, purpose-driven attention that Adderall, say, might have allowed him to harness—in order to get to the deeper truths available only by distraction. That famous cookie is a kind of hyperlink: a little blip that launches an associative cascade of a million other subjects. This sort of free-associative wandering is essential to the creative process; one moment of judicious unmindfulness can inspire thousands of hours of mindfulness.

My favorite focusing exercise comes from William James: Draw a dot on a piece of paper, then pay attention to it for as long as you can. (Sitting in my office one afternoon, with my monkey mind swinging busily across the lush rain forest of online distractions, I tried this with the closest dot in the vicinity: the bright-red mouse-nipple at the center of my laptop’s keyboard. I managed to stare at it for 30 minutes, with mixed results.) James argued that the human mind can’t actually focus on the dot, or any unchanging object, for more than a few seconds at a time: It’s too hungry for variety, surprise, the adventure of the unknown. It has to refresh its attention by continually finding new aspects of the dot to focus on: subtleties of its shape, its relationship to the edges of the paper, metaphorical associations (a fly, an eye, a hole). The exercise becomes a question less of pure unwavering focus than of your ability to organize distractions around a central point. The dot, in other words, becomes only the hub of your total dot-related distraction.

This is what the web-threatened punditry often fails to recognize: Focus is a paradox—it has distraction built into it. The two are symbiotic; they’re the systole and diastole of consciousness. Attention comes from the Latin “to stretch out” or “reach toward,” distraction from “to pull apart.” We need both. In their extreme forms, focus and attention may even circle back around and bleed into one other.

Le ricompense distruggono la creativita’.

Da TED 2009:

…Pink shows a slide title “The candle problem,” a psychological experiment created by Karl Duncker in 1935. A person is brought into a room and given a candle, a box of thumbtacks and matches and asked to attach the candle to the wall so that the wax doesn’t drip on to the table. The person who can solve the candle problem is one who, rather than seeing the box as receptacle for the tacks, sees it as something that can be used in the solution. The box is tacked to the wall and the candle placed on it.

This experiment is used to learn about incentives, Pink explains. Two groups of people are offered the problem — the first group is simply timed and the second group is offered rewards. It takes the second group three and and a half minutes longer than the first group, on average, to solve the problem. “That’s not how its suposed to wrk! I’m an American. Incentives work!” Pink exclaims. But, he says, this experiment has shown that incentives actually dull thinking and block creativity and he notes that this is not an aberration. It’s been shown over and over again. It’s one of the most robust findings in social science and also one of the most ignored. There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.

Another experiment was done with the problem presented in a slightly different way. Th tacks were taken out of the box, and then the incentivzed group did much better than the other. Pink says this is because it’s an easy problem. For these types of tasks of narrow focus, where you can see the goal right there, rewards work really well.

However, he points out that around the world, white collar workers are doing less of this second type of work and more of the first. Narrow tasks have become fairly easy to outsource and to automate and right-brain conceptual tasks have become more important….

He draws on the a study by Dan Ariely and his colleagues. Ariely et al found that once the given task in one of these experiments was only a mechanical skill, rewards would mean better performance, but if any rudimentary cognitive skill was needed, a larger reward would mean a worse performance. …

So, Pink says, to get out of the messes of the 20th century, we don’t need to do more of the wrong things. We need a new approach, one that includes three basic elements: Autonomy, mastery and purpose. These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system. Today, he says he’s going to talk about autonomy. The traditional notions of management are great if you only want compliance, he explains. But for creative thinking, we have to approach things differently.

Science knows that motivators only work to solve narrow problems, Pink declares, but they destroy creativity. Maybe, he says, if we can increase productivity in solving the candle problems everywhere, we can change the world.

Perdita del lavoro: sicurezza e politiche industriali

Riflessioni condivisibili di Luciano Gallino.

La vicenda della Innse di Lambrate dimostra quali sviluppi drammatici possono presentarsi quando un numero crescente di persone vede violato a proprio danno un fondamentale diritto umano.

E cioè il diritto ad una ragionevole sicurezza socio-economica. È l’esperienza di chi perde il lavoro senza averne alcuna responsabilità. Chi sia costretto a tale esperienza è colto anzitutto dall’angoscia per l’immediato futuro. Come farò, si chiede, a pagare le rate del mutuo e dell’auto, le cure odontoiatriche per i figli più piccoli, il costo della scuola superiore o dell’università per i più grandi. In secondo luogo la stessa persona si sente vittima di una grave ingiustizia, di un inganno che qualcuno ha ordito alle sue spalle e che improvvisamente si rivela come tale. Quando si colpisce il diritto a una giusta sicurezza socio-economica, sono queste le emozioni che si diffondono come un incendio boschivo sia tra i diretti interessati, sia tra coloro – molto più numerosi – che pensano domani potrebbe toccare a me.

Semplicemente partivano dall’assunto, rivelatosi poi totalmente sbagliato, che in una economia dinamica, con elevati tassi di sviluppo, la sicurezza sarebbe stata assicurata agevolmente dal gran numero di veloci compensazioni che si svolgono sul mercato del lavoro: chi perda il lavoro il venerdì, si postulava, ne troverà sicuramente un altro il lunedì successivo. La moltiplicazione infinita delle occupazioni flessibili è stata fondata precisamente su tale assunto, che non ha alcuna base nemmeno negli Stati Uniti. Figuriamoci in Italia.

Al presente il problema, se possibile, si è ulteriormente complicato. Non soltanto l’economia crea nuovi posti di lavoro a un ritmo molto basso, ma è possibile che per un lungo periodo ne crei assai meno di quanti se ne stanno perdendo. E per accrescere la sicurezza dei milioni di individui che l’hanno già persa, o che temono di perderla tra breve, non basteranno né la ripresa – posto che questa arrivi nel 2010, o nel 2011, o ancora dopo – né un potenziamento dei cosiddetti ammortizzatori sociali. Sarebbero assolutamente necessarie politiche industriali realmente innovative rispetto ai modelli precedenti, che in altri paesi a partire dagli Stati Uniti, si cominciano a intravedere.

Ci vorrebbero inoltre interventi radicali di sostegno al reddito, quale sarebbe ad esempio un reddito di base o reddito di cittadinanza che sia, nonché una redistribuzione del lavoro disponibile che non abbia paura di quello che fu in passato uno slogan – lavorare meno per lavorare tutti – ma che potrebbe rivelarsi come una ricetta indispensabile per il prossimo futuro. Bisognerebbe anche impedire che operazioni apparentemente razionali sotto il profilo industriale come il trasferimento di rami d’azienda, la vendita in blocco di imprese piccole e medie, o la cessione di impianti a terzi, non fossero usati semplicemente per licenziare d’un colpo centinaia di lavoratori senza giusta causa.

Da Repubblica.

La montagna: anche qui arena di competizione

Ma quale e’ il settore della vita odierna immune dalla mania di competizione, dal perfezionismo a tutti i costi per adeguarsi a presunti modelli di virilita’ spacciati dai media?

La stragrande percentuale di coloro che vengono salvati o aiutati dall’elisoccorso prova un senso di sconfitta, quasi di vergogna. «Già – dice “Gnaro” -. E’ assurdo. Quando uno non ce la fa più chiami pure l’elicottero. La vergogna è un’altra cosa, riguarda la disonestà, non certo un incidente o le forze che vengono meno. Bisogna chiamare i soccorsi, non rischiare la pelle. Questa storia della vergogna è proprio legata a un modo assurdo di andare in montagna, quello della corsa contro il tempo, della performance, insomma. Follie

via Il re degli Ottomila “Una distrazione folle”-

Come si passa il tempo (in USA).

Interessante animazione del NYT che visualizza il tempo dedicato dagli americani (a seconda ) per varie occupazioni.

L’animazione e’ in flash: qui due schermate che confrontano i risultati per le donne con quelli per gli uomini. Si nota come le prime lavorino di meno (fuori casa…. ma con maggiori incombenze domestiche) mentre dedicano piu’ tempo per lo shopping. Mentre i giovani si alzano tardi… beati loro! 🙂


A Torino: trasporti via SMS

In attesa che anche a Torino si diffonda l’utilizzo degli SMS per i servizi di trasporto (come a Roma, per l’acquisto di biglietti – o a Trento per pagare il parcheggio), da segnalarne l’utilizzo per la chiamata dei taxi.

E’ partito a Torino il nuovo servizio di prenotazione taxi via sms. A renderlo possibile è un accordo siglato tra Telecom Italia e Cooperativa Radio Taxi Torino 5730. Si tratta del primo servizio di questo tipo in Italia ad avvalersi di una piattaforma tecnologica dedicata per gestire la trasmissione dei messaggi e consente di richiedere la disponibilita’ di una vettura sul territorio torinese attraverso l’invio di un sms al numero 339 9941333.

Il messaggio, con l’indirizzo del cliente, viene inoltrato a un sistema automatizzato che è in grado di localizzare l’auto piu’ vicina, contattarla per verificarne la disponibilita’ e rinviare al cliente un Sms di conferma contenente il codice identificativo del taxi in arrivo e il relativo tempo di attesa. Il tutto nel giro di pochi secondi.

via A Torino si prende il Taxi via SMS.

iphone: errore ripristino

Questa mattina era pronto l’aggiornamento alla versione3.01 dell’iPhone GS.  Fiducioso, ho dato come al solito l’ok…. ma poi a meta’ del ripristino della nuova immagine si e’ verificato un errore imprevisto e il cellulare e’ rimasto con la schermata di richiesta connessione  ad iTunes, senza dare alcun altro segno di vita. Ho staccato dal PC il cellulare, riavviato iTunes e provato nuovamente a ripristinare il cellulare: niente da fare.

Ravanando allora in rete, ho trovato questa guida per risolvere i problemi durante l’installazione.  Ho cancellato il file “ipsw” dell’ultima versione (che probabilmente si era corrotto durante il download) e provato a riaggiornare il terminale. Ha funzionato!

Update and restore alert messages on iPhone and iPod touch

If the issue is resolved by a new user

When a restore issue is specific to a user, it is likely due to an unusable .ipsw file. iTunes uses “ipsw” files to restore your iPod or iPhone. If those files are unusable, then try deleting them so iTunes can download a new copy of them. Creating a new user will also cause new .ipsw restore files to be downloaded in the new user. You can find the “.ipsw” files in these locations:

Mac OS X

iPhone: ~/Library/iTunes/iPhone Software Updates

iPod touch: ~/Library/iTunes/iPod Software Updates The tilde “~” represents your Home directory.

Windows XP

iPhone: C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates

iPod touch: C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPod Software Updates If you don’t see the Application Data folder, you may need to show hidden files.

via Update and restore alert messages on iPhone and iPod touch.

Il nemico della stampa | L’espresso

Bel testo di Umberto Eco.

Il problema italiano non è Silvio Berlusconi…..

E quindi è inutile prendersela con Berlusconi che fa, per così dire, il proprio mestiere. È la maggioranza degli italiani che ha accettato il conflitto di interessi, che accetta le ronde, che accetta il lodo Alfano, e che ora avrebbe accettato abbastanza tranquillamente – se il presidente della Repubblica non avesse alzato un sopracciglio – la mordacchia messa per ora sperimentalmente alla stampa. La stessa nazione accetterebbe senza esitazione, e anzi con una certa maliziosa complicità, che Berlusconi andasse a veline, se ora non intervenisse a turbare la pubblica coscienza una cauta censura della Chiesa – che sarà però ben presto superata perché è da quel dì che gli italiani, e i buoni cristiani in genere, vanno a mignotte anche se il parroco dice che non si dovrebbe.

via Il nemico della stampa | L’espresso.

Usa & Canda: un mese di viaggio tracciato col GPS, ora in Google Earth

Dopo circa un annetto (il viaggio fu fatto nell’estate del 2008), ho finalmente completato una parte del lavoro per mettere finalmente online e a disposizione di chi voglia visitare gli Stati Uniti (west) e la zona di Vancouver il tracciato dettagliato del GPS (visibile da Google Earth) del percorso giornaliero fatto durante un mese di viaggio.

Ogni giorno il fido cellulare tracciava il log GPS di quanto percorrevamo: a piedi, in auto (circa 11.000 km) e talvolta in battello. E cosi’ ci siamo ritrovati con un bel ricordo – naturalmente oltre a quelli personali, alle foto e alle emozioni vissute ora per ora!

Non ho “ancora” georeferenziato le foto… vabbe’, sara’  per la prossima volta! Per ora il materiale e’ Qui.

Come sempre a disposizione per consigli, suggerimenti (e per integrare le note !)