Dear Members of the Marist College Ashgrove Family,
We have just celebrated the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord, known as the Easter Triduum in the Church. Jesus’ trial was manipulated by Caiaphas, the High Priest, who saw Jesus as a threat to his authority. Caiaphas tried Jesus in his own house, on a public holiday and then influenced the chief priests, Pontius Pilate (the Roman Procurator) and then agitated the crowd into baying for Jesus to be crucified.
Fears exist today how we are manipulated in our twenty-first-century world. The media, political leaders, ideologies, consumerism, the list goes on. I heard of a new term during the holidays…
The Technology of Human Manipulation.
In an article written by Kira Beilis, she interviewed Matt Richtel, New York Times journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner and author of A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention. The book explores the neuroscience of our obsession with our phones in the context of a deadly car wreck caused by a texting driver.
Please find below three of the questions posed by Kira and Matt’s responses.
You write of a powerful clash between technology and the human brain. What’s the root of the conflict? Are we just not hard-wired to keep up with all the information technology throws at us?
We’re creating stuff that is so powerful as to almost be supernatural. The pace of innovation is practically light speed and the pace of evolution is snail speed. We don’t change at the pace technology changes just as we have not changed at the pace that food has industrialised, so we don’t metabolise junk food any better than we did 50 years ago. We’ve just learned we have to be careful with it. Similarly, we have to learn to adapt to technology in a world that is changing way, way faster than we can evolve.
Even for those of us with mature brains, it can feel impossible to disconnect; the temptation to check our phones is too strong. So what do we do?
It sounds so silly, but the very first thing is to make a concerted effort to disconnect on a regular basis for a period of time. Because research shows, when you have a lot of information coming at you and you’re processing a lot of it, you’re diminishing your ability to make a decision. When you’re in the car texting or even talking on the phone, you compromise your ability to make decisions in both of those contexts. Get enough space to let your brain nap. That’s critical.
The second thing is, you deplete your brain over the course of the day through things large and small; even choosing what to wear begins to deplete executive function. If every free second, you’re checking your device, you’re stealing resources from decision-making you may need later. You don’t want to bleed your brain to death tweet by tweet.
What is the biggest takeaway readers should draw from your work?
That your relationship with your device is not what it seems. You should scrutinise it so you can own that little monkey and it doesn’t own you.
Have you noted people that spend extraordinary amounts of time on their devices? Are you guilty of this like me? The boys know devices are not to be used at school… why? So that they have time to socially engage with other boys. One wonders how much time was spent during the holidays gaming or on devices.
Let’s all practise the skill of interacting with people over the coming weeks.
Yours in Jesus, Mary and St Marcellin.