A turning point for the war for attention

I think there is precious little that is new under the sun, judging, just for instance, by how much of one’s modern self can be found in Plato, Ecclesiastes, or the caves at Lascaux. We’re sitting here, in these humming, combusting wonders of modern tech, scrolling like trapped, clawing cats at the stifling silence that humans have been fighting for centuries. Blaise Pascal said in the seventeenth century that most of the world’s problems were due to man’s inability to sit quietly in a room. The fourth-century monk Evagrius Ponticus, and many monks beside him, spoke of a vice called acedia, a wanton restlessness, a quiet gripping terror that this place, this self, are bad, and better things are waiting elsewhere, available but ungrasped. So we dash around in our minds, and touch them in any way we can. Ponticus writes: “The demon of acedia — also called the noonday demon — is the one that causes the most serious trouble of all…. He makes it seem that the sun barely moves, if at all, and…. he instills in the heart of the monk a hatred for the place, a hatred for his very life itself.”

A happy self might be able to get by on the scenery outside the window. A sad, restless self needs stronger medicine, and will dash to get it, even if it means taking silly, stupid peeks at our phones while piloting a car at 65 miles an hour.

Ian Marcus Corbin on whether this is the moment that forces drastically needed collective reflection—and action—on the growing threat of the digital monopolies.

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