Monday, March 29, 2010

Beep beep. Flash flash. Vibrate.

1905 is considered by people who know about these things Einstein's annus mirabilis or "miracle year." Not only did he receive his PhD. that year he also wrote the four papers which first earned him his fame.

During that year Einstein subsisted by working in Bern in the Swiss patent office. It was pretty boring work and Einstein could do his patent work with one part of his brain while unraveling the mysteries of time and space with another part.

Undoubtedly Einstein had a lot to deal with. It's never hard starting out and he was a stranger in a strange city. That said, I wonder if the world would be a different place if Einstein had had some of our technologies.

We walk around, we sit in our work spaces and we are assaulted by a barrage of flashing lights and whirs and beeps. My two blackberries flash that someone's sent me an email. My desk phone light says someone wants me. My Microsoft calendar sonic brands me into submission telling me when I'm due here or there. My IM beeps. Things vibrate and not in a good way.

I know we can block these things. We can un-tether ourselves from social media, stick our berries of color in our desk drawers and eschew email. But despite that we know we have all that looming over us. Someone wants us for something. Or, perhaps more pointedly, something that you're not doing at the moment is more important than doing whatever it is you are doing. That's why a flashing light beckons.

The other night I saw "Aida" at the Metropolitan Opera. A cast of hundreds. Sets that we're literally 100 feet high. Amazing voices and performances. Amazing music and emotion.

There were no "quick cuts" in Aida. No eye-blurring, head-jerking, whiplash-inducing suddenness. There was a story that took time and space to develop and tell. I suspect Verdi would have frowned on music videos--though he might have created their forerunners.

What we face today is a global attention deficit disorder. A panic response to the demands of the momentary.

I think that may be why nothing very worthwhile ever gets done.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

George, I made a decision not to have a Blackberry. Nor do I have an iPhone. I have a cheap old phone that makes and receives calls. And while I'm at the office I turn it off. It is impossible to do good, or great work if you are constantly distracted. Technology is doing us no favors when it comes to being creative. I don't think Einstein would have a Blackberry today. It's not that I am a neo-luddite. Instead it's that I am attempting to be a neo-elitist. What I do is so important to me that I won't let the world distract me.