August 11, 2011
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Now You See It
Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy N. Davidson, Viking Books, 352 pages, $27.95, Hardcover, August 2011, ISBN 9780670022823
The Internet did not exist in most offices or schools 15 years ago; today, most of us couldn’t do our work without it. It has changed how we do almost everything. Or has it? Cathy N. Davidson makes a strong case in Now You See It that the structure of our educational system and workplace, designed for the industrial age, need badly to be updated—that what made us so efficient in the past is becoming irrelevant and obsolete in the always-on information era.
What she attempts to do in her book is offer “a systematic way of looking at our old twentieth-century habits so that we can break them,” and she does so by looking at the latest brain science concerning attention.
If attention suddenly has our attention, it’s because we live in a time when everything is changing so radically and so quickly that our mental software is in constant need of updating. We have heard many times that the contemporary era’s distractions are bad for us, but are they? All we really know is that our digital age demands a different form of attention than we’ve needed before.This is an important and necessary addition to the conversation about how the Internet is affecting our brains and our culture, and what we can and should do about it. And, though I’m fascinated by the debate between the usual cheerleaders and naysayers, Davidson gladly eschews their dichotomist positions to examine the more complex middle ground of everyday reality and how we can work in it most effectively.
The era we are living in is way too complicated to reduce to the current “Internet is making us stupid” argument or its utopian counterpart (“Internet is making us brilliant”). We all know that neither generalization tells the whole story of our working lives.Business readers will be most interested in the third section of the book, “Work in the Future.” There, Davidson examines how the increase in MBAs and the proliferation of management philosophies affected the literal rise of the hierarchical modern workplace in skyscrapers, with the importance of the corner office and the higher floors where the executives reside, the ubiquity of the middle-manager, and the entry of females into the workforce in lower positions and for less pay than their male counterparts.
That world is slowly fading, but unless you work at a place like Google, the workplace doesn’t look all that different for most of us. Now You See It does a fine job of examining how the structures that exist in our society came into being, how they are (or are not) serving us now, and how to best restructure our own lives, our education system, and our workplaces to take advantage of the digital revolution and how our brains work, and adapt to a new paradigm.