The Pitfalls of Awareness

Constant awareness should be beneficial. Given the ability to constantly consider, question and muse, a decision maker’s process of reaching success should be nearly automatic. We live in a society that allows us to approach this state: 24/7 media, the internet and a culture rich in publication medium creates a foundation wherein the individual can explore a topic to depths beyond previous fantasy. If we’re interested in something we find limitation not in resources but in our ability to absorb the plethora of material available.

These limitations in absorption have created a culture of rapid publication. Politicians speak in sound blips, broadcasters tweet and written publications feature articles of far shorter word counts than publications of the past. Carr’s The Shallows argues this culture has affected our brain and created a circle where short attention spans crave short works which likewise feed the need. In many ways our culture is the disease to the cure for which it professes to be.

If this is the state of our culture, how do assess our ability to deal with conflict. If our attention span is so reduced are we still able to deal with long-term issues? How do we relate to conflicts that extend far into the future? Does a situation with an unknown date of conclusion or unclear outcome extend to a state beyond our concern? Certainly the United States of America possesses minds strong enough to deal with long-term conflicts, but what of the public? In a system where the opinion of the whole is more important than the opinions of the few, how does a culture of short attention spans deal with long-term drama?

The pitfalls of constant awareness are an inability to act with long-term interests in mind. One may recognize the potential for long-term gain via short-term loss but can he or she convince a public to accept this state? Faced with this decision many leaders are placed in a situation where personal sacrifice is the cost for these types of gains. A key feature of leadership is an awareness of what is needed for the group in mass. Often a leader must sacrifice his or her own status for the benefit of the group. I often wonder whether our elected leadership is capable of making these sacrifices?

In a culture of short-attention spans and constant awareness we must carve a niche for deeper consideration. Focus will allow us to understand what needs to be done in the short-term to achieve long-term success. An obsession with now creates a system obsessed with immediate pleasure. Focusing on the moment leaves us unable to see the dangers ahead. We are the driver staring only at the steering wheel. The importance of broad awareness cannot be understated. Our tools to constant awareness are wonderful but if we lose track of what lies ahead and choose instead to bask in the pleasures of the present we harbor a delusion. There is great danger in disregarding variables and if left unchecked we may find ourselves careening into hazards that we never knew existed but were always placed and waiting- stalled right before our eyes.

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