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In this episode, we have the tough task of examining the evidence that our society is losing its ability for prolonged attention, focus and concentration. We talk about what are the main factors leading to this, and what we can do to mediate it individually, but also collectively through regulation if necessary, before it becomes intergenerational.

Is this also another symptom, like depression and addiction, of growing up with less and less face to face social connection and non-focused attention.

Fortunately today’s guest, the New York Times bestselling author Johann Hari, has written about Depression and Addiction, and his new book “Stolen Focus: What you can’t pay attention and how to think deeply again”, focuses on this very issue of Attention.


Johann is a British award winning author and journalist. His book on Addiction ‘Chasing the Scream: the First and Last Days of the War on Drugs’, has been adapted into the Oscar-nominated film ‘The United States Vs Billie Holiday’.

And his second book, ‘Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions’ was shortlisted for an award by the British Medical Association.

His TED talks have been viewed more than 80 million times. Over the past decade he has written for some of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, and the Spectator. And he has appeared on NPR, HBO, The Joe Rogan Podcast, and the BBC.


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What we discuss :


00:00 Short Intro

05:00 Rumi’s quote, ’The wound is where the light enters you’

08:45 James A Baldwin, the connection between pain and empathy

09:42 The 12 reasons for our shrinking attention

11.10 Task switching and the illusion of multitasking

14.27 Higher stress from faster lives

17:00 Deep concentration only when feeling safety

18:41 Technologies that monitor us and manipulate our attention

20:00 Precedents in history for laws to ban certain elements that were harmful

22:00 The social media business model and the alternative

27:00 Big Tech is polarising the debate into pro vs anti tech

29:45 Polarisation, Black or White thinking, lack of nuance and need for synthesis

33:00 Facebook whistleblowers - angry reaction posts are prioritised by algorithms

34:00 Hacking human negativity bias, that evolved for survival

35:00 Facebook’s use in the rise of Bolsanaro in Brazil

37:00 The connection between loss of nuance, shortening attention, and polarisation

45:16 Gabor Mate, trauma and the rise of ADHD

48:45 Lowering of length of sleep and bad diet

50:00 The loss of exercise, sedentary schooling

53:00, free social play without supervision

58:00 Connection to nature, depression, and urban planning

01:02:00 To convince the public we need emotion to animate the data

01:04:00 Flow states: Meaningful goals at the edge of your ability

01:08:00 Le Burn Out: Workers stressed by being on call 24/7

01:11:20 A new generation of socially connected people

01:13:36 Functional individuals are corrupted in a dysfunctional system

01:23:00 We can put this right, the internet is young

01:26:00 Las Vagas investigation: new book



Rumi quote: ‘The wound is the place where the light enters you’

Hemingway quote: ‘The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.’

Leonard Cohen quote: ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in’

Earl Millar at MIT - Task Switching and the Switch- Cost effect

Nadine Burke-Harris - Ex-Surgeon general of California, adverse childhood experience survey

Sean Parker quote, founding president of Facebook, “It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other ... It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."

Tristan Harris - Social Dilemma creator

Gabor Mate book on addiction- 'In the realm of Hungry ghosts'

Johann Hari book on addiction - 'Lost Connections', free social play without supervision

David Hume quote - ‘reason is the slave of the passions’

The Corporation, documentary about the history of The Corporation

Paul Graham - the world will become more addictive

Krisna Murti quote- ‘it’s no sign of good health to be adjusted to a profoundly sick society’

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