Patience & Attention : A Lost Art

Every coin has two sides. And same is the case with today’s technology. It has made our lives simple and fast, or rather lightning fast. Things which took days or weeks can now be done in mere seconds. But things are not all that rosy as they seem to be. We are paying a price of this convenience by losing some of our precious skills like patience and attention which are more like a lost art these days !

Patience

A new unknown word ? Google it ! Who has time to search it in a dictionary ?
Want to inform something to someone ? Email or message ! Who has time to write a letter which will reach the destination in atleast a week’s duration ?
A bug in code ? Google it ! Why waste time trying to correct it yourself ?
Want to read a book ? Download an ebook ! Who has time to buy a real book ?
Want to cook a new recipe ? Search online ! Why experiment ? It may be a disaster !
I could just go on and on …

I don’t mean that doing any of this is wrong. However, some of its aftereffects are ! It has made us so much accustomed to getting results instantaneously, that we have lost our patience. If a webpage takes more than 3 seconds to load then its not worth it ! We want everything immediately. A time lag is just unbearable. And then the same impatience is also evident in our day to day life. We expect everything to be instantaneous. Immediate success, immediate replies from others, immediate delivery of goods, immediate results, immediate solutions. But it is not possible always. And this results in broken expectations leading to anger and grief.

Another shortcoming is that this instant gratification prevents us from trying things ourselves. We would rather believe what others have to say about something that experiencing it ourselves. That’s because others experiences are available instantaneously, however trying out something ourselves requires time and efforts. But the amount of joy and knowledge which one gains by experiencing things oneself can never be learnt from other’s experiences. Also one is more likely to remember and internalize the lessons learnt by oneself than by just knowing other’s experiences and lessons.

Solution – It’s important that we recognize our reducing patience levels and work towards improving it. One of my favorite technique is to learn a new skill. Try learning a new musical instrument or some sport. Learning something new requires a lot of time and patience. One needs to repeatedly do the same thing multiple times in order to perfectly master it. I still remember the numerous number of times i played the seven notes on my keyboard after which i could play it without seeing the keys. Only then did my teacher teach me to play a song on it ! I know it can be difficult. Monotony may lead to boredom and that’s when one feels like giving up. But a little persistence and patience and take us a long way ! Also its very important to remember that the instantaneous results of technology are not applicable always. Some things like growing a tree require time and patience.

Attention

Our attention spans have significantly reduced. As one of my Prof. rightly says, one of the major challenges of today’s generation is to survive death by thousand distractions. We are constantly being swarmed with a lot of information, most of which is not all that important. Just count the number of tabs open in your browser right now and you will know what i mean. Email notifications, Facebook updates, News updates, Messages, Music playing in the background and the ever coming Whats-app messages. Just try leaving all things aside and concentrate on a task and the mind jumps back to these sources just to see if there is any important update.  We believe that we can do this multitasking, however actually the brain is constantly context switching from task to another leading to an illusion of multitasking. This continuous context-switching deteriorates the quality of information stored in our brain. It is also difficult to filter all the useful information and store it into long term memory. The mind is in a constant state of flux and sadly it is unwilling to return to its original calm and peaceful state.

Solution – “Do one thing at a time !” When you read, just read. When you eat, just eat. When you work, just work. When you enjoy, just enjoy. When you code, just code. Leave multitasking for the gadgets. It may be difficult, but not impossible. It makes life much more simpler and enjoyable. Even i am trying hard to practice this. And i am sure with a bit of patience we all can master it !

Book Review – The Power Law of Information

the_power_law_of _information

How many times have you read a non-fiction book and you were left amazed with reality ? Well, “The Power Law of Information” is one of those books. We are all so busy with the day-to-day happenings in our life that sometimes we fail to see how some things affect us so powerfully and literally change our lives. One of those things is “information”. 2.7 Zetabytes of data exists in the digital universe today and it is growing at a very fast rate. Earlier information was not available so easily and effortlessly.  But today the easy availability of information has transformed our lives. This book shows how the huge availability (and sometimes the unavailability) of information affects us in different ways.

The book has been written in lucid and easy-to-understand manner. For the technical people, there are mathematical equations and lots of graphs for a better and in-depth understanding. However the best thing which i liked was that, even if one is not familiar with the mathematical stuff, one can easily get the gist of what the author wants to convey. There are lots of practical, real life examples and anecdotes. There are some case studies to validate the point. All this makes the book an interesting read and an eye-opener about the impact of information in our life. This book can be specially useful for the people who are intrigued by the Internet, the world wide web, the social networks or about information in general

Earlier it was believed that information networks are similar to physical or material networks. However it is clearly shown here that information networks have unique and different properties like information can be reused, it can be easily replicated etc which are not found in the material network. Information follows the power law, i.e. a small number of entities have a high value and a large number of entities have a small value. It is such a unique and important property that it has its place in the title of the book. Information networks are non-linear since people in the network interact with each other and may be connected in loops. It is also friction-less since the feedback fully affects the information network. Studying and predicting outcomes in such networks can be extremely complex but that’s the way reality is !

In this book, ‘information’ has been analyzed from all the perspectives. Firstly information itself and its properties and how it affects us is discussed. Various parameters which affect information and different ways to model information are studied. Also how we as humans can make beneficial use of this information despite our fallacies, biases and bounded rationality makes an interesting read. Other social factors like herd mentality and satisficing behavior are analyzed with some interesting examples. Money is also in some sense, information. The book concludes on the topic how money affects the world. There is a detailed bibliography and further reading for the interested readers. Overall it’s an amazing book filled with lots of practical examples and a great read over the weekend.