"My friend has just had his PC wired for broadband," writes the poet Don Paterson. "I meet him in the café; he looks terrible—his face puffy and pale, his eyes bloodshot. . . . He tells me he is now detained, night and day, in downloading every album he ever owned, lost, desired, or was casually intrigued by; he has now stopped even listening to them, and spends his time sleeplessly monitoring a progress bar. . . . He says it's like all my birthdays have come at once, by which I can see he means, precisely, that he feels he is going to die."
The Internet has provided us with an almost unlimited amount of information, but the speed at which it works—and we work through it—has deprived us of its benefits. We might work at a higher rate, but this is not working. We can store a limited amount of information in our brains and have it at our disposal at any one time. Making decisions in this communication brownout, though without complete information, we go to war hastily, go to meetings unprepared, and build relationships on the slippery gravel of false impressions. Attention is one of the most valuable modern resources. If we waste it on frivolous communication, we will have nothing left when we really need it.