Published August 2022 on YouTube

707: Johann Hari | Why You Can't Pay Attention—And What to Do About It

1. Introduction

Johann Hari and Jordan discuss the reasons behind our decreasing attention spans and the importance of finding flow state to combat distraction and regain control over our attention.+

2. Graceland Obsession

Graceland Obsession:Johann shares a story of his godson's obsession with Elvis and how it turned into an addiction to technology. He explains how his godson's life became a blur of social media, porn, and messaging apps, and how it affected his mental health.+
The Problem of Distraction:Johann shares a personal story about how he and his godson tried to escape the problem of constant distraction by going on a trip, but found that it was happening to everyone. He reflects on the need to find out what's actually happening with technology and distraction, leading him to write his book.+

3. Digital Attention Crisis

Digital Addiction:Jordan and Johann discuss the effects of technology on attention and how it is affecting people of all ages. They share their personal experiences and research on how technology is affecting our ability to focus on important tasks.+
Stolen Focus:Johann explains how attention has been stolen from us due to big structural reasons and technology. He shares insights from his journey and interviews with 200 leading experts on attention and focus. Jordan and Johann discuss how most people in the Western world exist in this state for years at a time, and Johann gives an analogy of it being like someone throwing mud on your windshield.+
Attention Crisis:Johann shares Dr. James Williams' analogy of the attention crisis being like mud on a windshield. He emphasizes the importance of sustained focus and attention in achieving goals and solving problems, and offers insights from leading experts on how to regain focus in a world of constant technological distractions.+

4. Attention Crisis

Levels of Attention:Johann Hari discusses the different levels of attention, including the spotlight and the starlight, and how distraction can impact both short-term and long-term goals. Jordan Harbinger adds that interruptions can take an average of 23 minutes to recover from.+
Attention Crisis:Johann and Jordan discuss the attention crisis affecting society and democracy. They explore the importance of sustained focus for achieving collective goals and highlight the need to distinguish real science from lies and conspiracy theories.+

5. Social Media Algorithms

Social Media Algorithms:Johann Hari explains how social media apps make money by scanning and sorting user data with artificial intelligence algorithms to sell to advertisers, and how this harms both individual and collective attention.+
Attention and Outrage:Johann Hari discusses how social media algorithms are designed to keep users scrolling for as long as possible, and how the combination of negativity bias and these algorithms can lead to a society plugged into an anger machine. He also explores how these factors are harming both individual and collective attention.+

6. Sponsors

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7. Mindful Tech Use

Shaping Minds:Jordan and Johann discuss how technology is shaping our minds and the importance of being mindful of the tech we use. They also touch on the idea that while there are negative things happening in the world, it's also a great time to be alive.+
Attentional Pathogenic Environment:Johann Hari discusses with Jordan Harbinger how our environment has changed in ways that make it easy to become obese and hard to focus. They explore how the food we eat, the cities we live in, and the stress we experience have all contributed to these changes. They also discuss how the human brain is limited in its ability to focus on more than one or two things at a time, and how multitasking can lead to decreased productivity and creativity.+

8. The Cognitive Cost

The Cognitive Cost:Johann Hari explains how chronic interruptions and distractions can lower IQ points, making it twice as bad for your intelligence as getting stoned. He also discusses how technology is designed to interrupt us, and how companies are spending billions of dollars in research to hack our focus and steal it.+
Collective Solution:Johann Hari discusses the importance of individual changes to protect ourselves and our children from attention burnout but emphasizes the need for a collective solution to the problem. He gives an example of France's "right to disconnect" law, which gives French workers the right to not check their phones or emails after work hours.+

9. Collective Change for Individual Change

Collective and Individual Change:Johann Hari discusses the importance of collective change to enable individual change, while Jordan Harbinger highlights the dangers of technology-induced interruption and loss of focus.+
Stolen Focus:Johann shares his experience of struggling to pay attention and how interruptions can lead to self-interruption. He talks about his attempt to regain focus by disconnecting from the internet and smartphone for three months in Provincetown.+
Resetting Attention:Johann shares his experience of resetting his attention by disconnecting from technology and the impact it had on his focus. He emphasizes the need to deal with the sources of distraction rather than just the symptoms in ourselves.+

10. Shrinking Collective Attention

Shrinking Collective Attention:Johann Hari discusses with Jordan Harbinger how collective attention is shrinking due to the internet and other factors. Professor Sune Lehmann's study proves that our attention span is decreasing, and we need to understand the deeper causes of this phenomenon.+
Shrinking Attention Span:Johann explains how collective attention to any one topic is shrinking and how sleep deprivation is affecting our ability to focus and pay attention.+

11. Sponsors

Amanda Montell and Isa Medina discuss modern-day cults we all follow, from Disney adults to Instagram therapists, to Elon Musk super fans, and try to answer the question, "This group sounds like a cult, but is it really?"+

12. Sleep and Health

The Importance of Sleep:Johann explains the importance of sleep and how it affects our brain health. Lack of sleep can lead to the build-up of metabolic waste in the brain, which can have catastrophic effects on our attention and increase the risk of developing dementia.+
Teenage Sleep:Johann Hari and Jordan Harbinger discuss the biological imperative of teenagers needing more sleep and how the current school system is designed to ruin their ability to pay attention. They also discuss the psychological and physiological changes that occur when one is chronically underslept.+

13. Sleep and Technology

Sleep and Energy:Johann Hari and Jordan Harbinger discuss the structural reasons behind the lack of sleep and energy. They touch upon the effects of caffeine and social media on sleep and how light exposure affects our diurnal rhythms.+
Sleep and Technology:Johann explains how our bodies are wired to respond to darkness and how technology can disrupt our sleep patterns. He shares tips on how to disconnect from technology before bed and suggests that technology should be designed to not interrupt us.+

14. Banning Harmful Components

Banning Harmful Components:Johann shares the story of how a group of moms fought to ban leaded gasoline to protect their children's ability to focus and pay attention. They didn't demand to ban all gasoline or paint, just the specific component that was harming their children. This is a model for identifying harmful factors and collectively fighting to remove them from the environment.+
Tech's Underlying Business Model:Johann Hari and Jordan discuss how the underlying business model of tech is designed to capture attention and distract users, and how banning surveillance capitalism could be a solution. They also touch on the importance of considering the technology we use and for what purposes.Show transcript +

15. Alternative Business Models

Alternative Business Models:Johann Hari discusses the need for alternative business models to surveillance capitalism, such as subscription or public ownership. He explains that these models would shift the incentives from hacking attention to meeting customer needs, and suggests that the technology already exists to make this shift.+
Taking Back Our Attention:Johann Hari discusses the importance of an attention movement to combat the addictive nature of technology and other factors that harm our ability to focus. He emphasizes the need for individuals to take control and fight for a life where we can pay attention and choose focus.+

16. Progress and Hope

Progress and Coalition:Johann and Jordan discuss the progress made in LGBTQ+ rights and the potential for a coalition of people to fight for important issues like social media addiction. Johann shares his optimism for the future and the solutions he's seen.+
Hope and Solutions:Johann shares his experiences of visiting places that are building solutions and leaves listeners with a sense of hope and optimism. He also talks about his book and the irony of not being active on social media.+
Reading in the Digital Age:Jordan and Johann discuss the challenges of reading in the digital age, including the impact of screen reading on book reading, the distractions of technology, and the effects of surveillance capitalism. They explore the importance of slowing down and focusing on real life to fully enjoy it.+

17. Outro

Jordan shares his expertise on networking and maintaining relationships, offering a free course on the subject. Many of the guests on the show are contributors to the course, making it a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their networking skills.+